The hauntology micro genre, which has been enthused about by bloggers such as Simon Reynolds, K-Punk and Woebot, is principally based around a handful of retro-futurist records made in England. The music of Burial, ostensibly a dubstep artist, bears some of the hallmarks of this genre, although Ghost Box and Mordant Music are better places to start for the uninitiated. The latter has even released a track called “The Hauntological Song.” Seeland, a duo composed of former Broadcast guitarist Tim Felton and erstwhile Plone member Billy Bainbridge, draw on similar influences (library music, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop), albeit with a song-based pop sheen added to the mix.
Tomorrow Today comes wrapped in a suitably sleek cover from Ghost Box mainman Julian House and opens with the patter of rinky-dink drum machines and vintage synths. Seeland’s sound is rooted in heartsick synthpop and is occasionally reminiscent of the direction Broadcast veered toward on Tender Buttons, which was, ironically, their first album without Felton in the band. Their music is framed by the whir and drone of vintage electronic gear and idiosyncratic field recordings, although there’s nothing marginal about Tomorrow Today. This is strident radio friendly pop, with blissed out vocals from Felton that recall Brit ravers the Beloved circa their late ‘80s hit “The Sun Rising.”
Unfortunately, the vocals are the one part of Seeland’s fastidiously assembled sound that don’t quite work. Felton’s words often descend into syrupy platitudes and mawkish yearning, feeling like an empty add-on after a hard day of slotting wires into decrepit analog circuitry. It highlights the value of Trish Keenan’s vocal contributions to Broadcast, which transform songs that might otherwise have sounded like a group of people producing perfectly listenable, yet emotionally stilted material from timeworn machines.
For the most part, Tomorrow Today is a pleasing addition to the ranks of retro-futurist pop records, it just lacks the rough edges that make the best Broadcast, Pram and Stereolab songs resonate so strongly. “Goodbye” is full of wooshing Moog and plinky-plonky Casio wonder; “Hang on Lucifer” offers welcome respite from the condensed electronics by adding some blusterous guitar lines; and “Call the Incredible” is piteous pop that ushers in a neatly acerbic ending to the album. There’s plenty of promise here, but Tomorrow Today ultimately sounds too clean and polished, with Felton and Bainbridge leaving barely any room for this ultra compressed music to really breathe.