“Someone once described me as Nine Inch Nails meets Kate Bush, which I thought was funny. But I see what they mean, there’s an ethereal vulnerability which contrasts to the producers industrial edge.” Says Marie-Claire of Glaswegian atmospheric rock act SEIL LIEN. Due release their debut album ‘Shatter’ on April 17th 2020, SEIL LIEN is one of the most unique artists to come out of Scotland, and the brain child of an uncompromising underground experimentalist. A preview of the record can be heard on the new single ‘It’s Love That Brought You Here’ released today, with an accompanying lyric video available to view on YouTube HERE.
With a solid fanbase built up over years of hard graft playing live, SEIL LIEN’s debut album ‘Shatter’ has been a long-awaited follow up to the aptly named ‘A Little While More EP’ released in 2018. Hitting the ground running, SEIL LIEN were thrust into the public eye when in 2018, through the publishing arm of Ninja Tune, the song ‘A Little While More’ was synced in a series of Boots ‘Inspirational Women’ campaign advertisements. Lead member Marie-Claire described the experience as “amazing, unexpected and life affirming!” and the catalyst to get the debut album finished.
The final product is eight songs of uncompromising artistry a total of 3 years in the making, and a sound that could be described as the distillation of prolonged periods of improvisation and experimentation. Marie-Claire can actually pinpoint the exact moments she felt this approach would yield results in-line with what she wanted to express, saying “this whole SEIL LIEN journey began after seeing a collaboration of Akram Khan and Nitin Sawhney. I was so blown away by it, I left the theatre with a real yearning to make music that could be a landscape for something else – something visual. I had met percussionist Signy Jakobsdottir through touring together with a jazz band around South East Asia and she invited me to do some improvisation with her at the Scottish Dance theatre and over the next few years I did a lot more of that.
“At the same time I was hanging out with Glasgow noise musician Noma, and he really changed the way I approached writing music. I realised that my voice wasn’t there to facilitate a song, but a tool that could be worked and manipulated to evoke emotion like an instrument. That journey came to a natural end and I started making songs out of these landscapes. ‘Nothing Feels Like Loving You’ was the first song I wrote coming out of this experience. It was important for me that it made it onto the album as it represents the beginning of the project. The intro to the song is a kind of homage to the beginning”
“I absolutely love this”
Johnnie Walker, BBC Radio2
Creating something that lasts in an eternal unchanged state like an LP is no small task, but couple that with the onus to express oneself through improvisation could have proved impossible, especially when it’s a skill that doesn’t come naturally, as Marie-Claire claims, “Improvisation didn’t come easily to me – the art of not thinking but feeling your way through sessions was, at first, terrifying. As a performer you are always show-ready before you play in front of people but when you approach improvisation you have to be prepared for everything to come out, the good, bad and horrendously ugly! You soon learn that by getting to the ugly stuff you can work it out as you go and really get to some beautiful moments.”
The results speak for themselves. The album is swampy, cinematic and progressive, easily slotting into rock, yet also covering elements of world music, noise, ambient, industrial, shoegaze and even pop. Working with close friend and producer Rico Capuano and engineer Gerry Gregory (who also played bass on the record), was the turning point for the record’s sound, as according to Marie-Claire, “In the beginning we had the chance to do some demos at Sony and another major house with a commercial producer. It was a difficult decision but we walked away from that path. I had such a clear vision and it was too alternative for them at the time. I wanted to keep to the atmospheric roots that the songs came from.
“Rico Capuano with his engineer Gerry Gregory and we managed to raise funds via Creative Scotland. I had always hoped that he would do it. Rico had once said to me years before when I was struggling with what to do about the consequences of working more commercially. He said, “Everyone gets spat out the other side. The most important thing is that you can live with the music you put out into the world. That you can look back and be proud of whatever happens.” That really stayed with me and was quite pivotal in the path that I chose. He was right, and I’m happy I made the choices that I did and that we made the music the way we wanted to.”
In addition to Marie-Claire and Gerry, the other musicians featured on ‘Shatter’ include Icelandic/ Scottish percussionist Signy Jakobsdottir, a Gamalan specialist who brought a very special sound to the record, and a treasure trove of percussive elements. Whilst not a mainstay in the live act, Signy does feature when her schedules allow. On guitar is Scottish musician Dave Cook, whose playing Marie-Claire describes as “dark, intense shoegazer-on-ecstasy feel – perfect”.
Marie-Claire herself has been a mainstay on the Scottish underground music scene for some time, and subbed for Shirley Manson last year on the 30th Anniversary reformation of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, performing with them on stage for a series of live dates celebrating the release of the album Good Deeds and Dirty Rags. It was yet another life affirming experience for Marie-Claire, who says that “I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a bit of a poisoned chalice, as they were big shoes to fill. It seemed inevitable that just by not being Shirley Manson I was going to be a disappointment and receive careful scrutiny. But the fans were amazing, so supportive and have really got behind SEIL LIEN. Being a Glasgow girl, playing a sold out Barrowlands was really something special.”
With a background in fine art and sculpture, Marie-Claire has also created all the artwork and photography for SEIL LIEN. Her love for creating visual pieces has greatly influenced her musical artistry, “My approach to art is probably quite similar to how I approach music, it’s not geared to wider commercial acceptance but rather as an external reflection of my internal thoughts and feelings. Therefore, there is no filter other the artistic aesthetic so it’s not commercially driven in that sense. They are just different vehicles of expression and if I didn’t get it out of my heart and head I’d go crazy. When I started making improvised music I began applying that to my artwork, trying to not to think too much and just channel pure expression. It’s really changed the way I approach my painting.”
SEIL LIEN will play select dates around the UK later this year to launch the record, starting with a Glasgow show at The Old Hairdresser on April 21st, with further dates to be announced.