Uploaded to Aural Innovations: December 2003
Norway's Seid has, in recent years, started to make some "noise" outside of their home country, this being their third tour of central Europe in just the last 16 months. Hailing originally from the sleepy town of Arendal on the south coast of Norway (home also to the great folk-psych band The Smell of Incense), they reassembled in recent years in the larger city of Trondheim on the west coast. And now, with one CD (another on the way) and a pair of 7" singles all in hand, their live set is now fully realized and loaded with highlights. I was lucky enough to catch them in a small friendly club in the far south of Germany, near enough to my home in Switzerland that I could attend the show and still return home via public transportation. Singen is itself just a sleepy little town, a stop on the way between bucolic countryside and absolutely nowhere. The Exil club, run by a friendly and enthusiastic music fan named Wolfgang (who always had good stuff playing over the PA before and between sets), has its contingent of loyal patrons though, and a fair number of them came out on an early Sunday evening for some fantastic aural stimulation.
The extra-early start (7:15 PM) meant that Seid were able to offer their repertoire by way of two halves separated by a half-hour intermission. The five-piece orchestra came onstage and opened with a number that I didn't recognize (indicated as just "Creature" on the setlist that I peeked at later), which is always a nice thing, as you know then that the group is pushing ahead with new material and another CD should soon appear (later confirmed). Seid's style is varied and almost always interesting... if you were to make a triangle with Monster Magnet, Spiritualized, and the Strawberry Alarm Clock representing the three corners, Seid would hover around in the middle somewhere. They have that ability to mix together the "anachronistic" and "modern" sounds of these groups, and speed it up and slow it down without losing the audience along the way.
Soon enough, we got the 'sped up' material going with the excellent rip-roarin' "Fire Song" off the full-length CD 'Among the Monster Flowers.' Other new stuff then came in the form of tracks like "Do as You're Told" and "Meet ze Spacemen," which bodes well for the upcoming sophomore CD. Somewhere in the first set was an outstanding slow, dirge-like number that reminded me of the self-titled Black Sabbath song (from the self-titled album), as I could envision in my mind both the chimes and the flaming torches that Sabbath used for live performance of this song, even though neither was employed here in the cozy confines of the Exil club. (Though the band did their best to set fire to the club by leaving the stove on in the back room, and so we did indeed have the smell of a burning *something* in the air.) Anyway, I wasn't surprised then when I later learned that the title of this song was "Mines of Moria" which has appeared on one of those 7" singles I mentioned before. The 45-minute opening salvo was topped off with a rousing rendition of the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night," and (despite an initial false start) this tune topped it all off with flying colors.
The second half of the show kicked off with a new tune entitled "Fly Towards the Sun," a brilliant 10-minute space extravaganza that is likely to be the highlight of the upcoming CD. Here, lefty-guitarist Janis could handle the gliss-bliss parts while "Organ" Morgan threw in the bulk of the spacey effects (though bassist Burt Rocket doubled on synths as well). The second stanza also included some tracks that have appeared in the discography, but weren't on the CD, like "Cafe Lola" and "Silver Messenger." Perhaps my favorite track from the 'Monster Flowers,' titled simply "5/4" (truly in 5/4 time, just like the obscure Hawkwind song of the same name) was definitely a highlight. Lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Jürgen Kosmos sings this one in a particularly interesting style, as if calling out from across a great canyon. Cosmic, man. Drummer Jan Spaice is new to the lineup (replacing Captain Lazer who played on the CD), and was up-to-the-task of performing all the earlier tunes and new stuff as well. The whole band was on target all night, and really fed off the energy of the small-but-enthusiastic audience. So I didn't get the impression that they were being dishonest when mentioning between songs a few times how much they were enjoying playing at Exil.
It was still early even at the end of the second set, which ended impressively with the slowly-building epic tune "Sleep," so of course there was an encore or two yet to be heard. First off was a pleasant surprise when Jürgen questioned whether anybody here remembered or liked Hawkwind ("Yep!")... but when they announced "Silver Machine," I was thinking that perhaps they could have picked a better tune, it never being one of my favorites despite it being Hawkwind's main claim to fame. That was a bit premature though, as Seid's version really rocked, and I'm not sure I even have heard as good a version by the Hawks themselves! That prompted a second encore of course, and when the fivesome prepared to launch again, Jürgen started an audience chant that I guess had become a kind of catchphrase for the tour. It went "Seid macht Spaß," which would be perfectly fine (and it was true... they did "make fun" for us all) except that "seid" just happens to (also) be a common German word (the 2nd person-plural form of 'to be') that taken literally must make the phrase sound quite peculiar to the natives. Or so I imagine. But no matter... the crowd was more than willing to play along. The second encore came and went, and because the clock still said just 9-something, there was no end to the "Seid macht Spaß," even after 10-15 minutes, so a third encore was an unavoidable outcome. By then, they were seemingly down to just one last tune from the repertoire, which I think was "Red Planet." Another really well-written song, though this one translated less well to the stage I think (which was perhaps why it was not intended to even be part of the set). However, once the tune got into the latter stages, we again had a nice uptempo (?) stream of psychedelic madness to *finally* cap off the evening's festivities.
Adding it all up in the end, Seid played at least two full hours and still there could have been time for more, it being still just short of 10 PM. But I was especially happy to have extra time in the club after the show to chat with the bandmembers, purchase a few mementos, and make a casual stroll back to the train station. So many times in recent months I've had to make a mad dash to catch the last train out of town after a show. So kudos to Wolfgang for getting things underway so early on a night before a workday, and for bringing such an excellent Nordic space-rock outfit this far south and practically into my backyard. Seid are a band to definitely check out, on CD (or vinyl) if you aren't fortunate enough to live in the right place, but definitely catch them onstage if you do. This band will appeal to most any AI reader, whether you prefer stoner rock, swirly 60s psychedelia, Floydian soundscapes, or good ole classic Hawkwind, eg. Space Ritual. It's all there. Seid macht Spaß!
Reviewed by Keith Henderson