Sarah Baker sits back and lets the music of Hackney-based polymath Larry Seftel wash over her.
Larry Seftel is a musician, video producer, art director and, well, Renaissance man. His recent album Seftel is meticulously produced with collaborative partners The Chap and merges arty pop sounds and beats with downright music theory. Seftel gently sings intellectual lyrics that are strangely unsettling and extraordinarily literate while the music itself is edgy yet tranquil.
I was at dinner at Seftel’s house one night and he showed us the music video for one of his songs, ‘Architects’, the lyrics a collaboration with poet Katharine Kilalea. The song is morose, infectious, poppy, and it made me want to take drugs and have a social interaction.
The ‘Architects’ video looks like art. It’s Meta. It’s post- internet. It’s fictitious. You hear Seftel very calmly and quietly singing: “It’s Saturday night / The architects are swarming / Adam is rolling around on the dance floor/ Third party for sex / Bottle of Bells… It’s all happening. Meanwhile, visually on screen, a completely di erent kind of text is appearing, as if being written; an academic description of an entrance to a house that must be designed by a famous modernist architect.
As the text is writing itself, it’s also being rapidly live- edited; the editing bubbles obstruct the view of the words. I was really hoping to get a grasp of this text, but I can’t decide whether to listen to the words or to read the words, although I find they work together very nicely indeed. More and more new document windows crop up, further obscuring the words. A reminder that we are not here to read some romanticist architectural Word document, though nicely written and seemingly interesting – like a partly comprehensive, overzealous pseudo-intellectual conversation at a party – we are here to listen to the music, right? As I decide to ingest it all, the text, the signing, the music, the party, the text gets smaller and smaller and repeats and gets even smaller, and at this point Seftel is not singing words anymore, just sounds, and it all becomes textural, textual static reminiscent of a lost transmission on an old TV screen.
Larry Seftel on ‘Architects’
“If it’s about anything at all, that song is a simple story about hysterical jealousy at a party, and the calmness of it. What I was trying to evoke in the music video is not the mercy of this terrible feeling. I think the song and the music video have a suffocating quality. I literally wanted to engender the sense of not being able to escape something; the happy accident of never being able to get away from the screen or a particular narrative point of view and the repeated attempts to escape and annotate.
That is my particular understanding of jealousy. It doesn’t really matter if it’s true or not; jealousy is not interested in narrative, it’s self-interested. at is how the song feels and how the music video feels – it’s not hysterical, just uncomfortable. ‘Hysterical’ suggests an explosion of energy. But for me, hysteria is the circularity of going over ideas again and again and never being able to get out of it.”
Somehow, Larry Seftel’s brand of jealously seems quite luxurious. If you too want to enjoy the full Seftel experience, fill a tumbler with whisky, lay back on a leather sofa, close your eyes and picture a party of drunks having fun without you. Now listen to Seftel again and again.
Seftel is released on 27 May by Lo Recordings, preceded by the single ‘Architects’.