Berlin-via-Mexico City’s Sei Still unleash a tense and cavernous new album in ‘El Refugio’.

Words: Elvis Thirlwell

Founded in a woodland bordering Mexico City, so the fable goes, Sei Still embedded themselves quickly into the country’s plump psychedelic scene (Lorelle Meets the Obsolete and Los Mundos among the past decade’s key players). Their eponymous, Neu!-worshipping 2020 debut fitted right in, unloading giddying tracts of Utopian motorik, executed to a dazzling tee – an inch-perfect study of transportive krautrock essence.

Not content to settle, the group upped sticks from their sunny climes and took refuge, (or should that be refugio), in the greying mizzliness of Berlin, slap bang in Europe’s centre. Aesthetic reformation stewed. That aforementioned buoyancy was weighed down with a skinny-jeaned diet of Joy Division for breakfast, eyeliner for lunch, and Molchat Doma for dinner. The motorik insistence endured beneath the surfaces, but a brutish, doomy realism clawed down what was once a music of blooming escape.

And the Sei Still betrayed by their sophomore record showcases assured transformation indeed. Now gloomy goth kings, (and why not?) the group inhabits the skin of a new genre on ‘El Refugio’; a whole different assortment of textures and experiences. Less Neu!’s ‘Hallogallo’, more The Cure‘s ‘Head on the Door’, track after track on ‘El Refugio’ trains by in chunters of bone-itching bass and cavernous drum; tripped out on the fringes by wailing ghosts of guitars, the entire work feels enshrouded in a grey-black cloud ever on the cusp of sodding rain. But the downpour – of course – never comes, there’s just the unresolved tension of buttoned-up raincoats, of hands affixed to umbrella handles.

Right through from the the maraca-pulsing grooves of ‘Solitico’ – i.e Robert Smith goes interrailing – to the shoegaze-brushing melancholy of the titular closing track, this is an impressive and deeply immersive work. Snuggling moodily into the Fuzz Club label’s canon of Teutonic post-punk – 10,000 Russos, The Vacant Lots et al – Sei Still unashamedly broadcast their restless, multifarious creativity here, with undiminishing confidence. Whatever next? I’m primed for anything.