Friday, January 28, 2022

Indie Music: Spencer Elliot, "SE3"

 by Germar Derron

I rarely purposely play an all-instrumental track. But a recent viewing of HBO's Listening to Kenny G has me rethinking my interest in the "genre." And this resistance is ironic considering that I stepped into this world of music appreciation and review from the background of a musician, and an undergrad and grad music major. As a recording arts student and professional, much of my life consisted of mic placement, classical guitars, and recital halls. SE3 sounds nothing like a Mr. G album. But Spencer Elliot possesses a similar master's level of skill, musical knowledge, and unabashed originality.

Years ago a friend asked, "how do you name a song with no lyrics?" That question gets answered on SE3. The voice is an instrument. It's just one that most of us have access to and "play" regularly. Here, the guitar sings. The melodies move and notes bend in a way that is much like a sang language. Each track feels distinct and recalls a setting or emotion.

"Silver Maple" reminds me of Dave Grohl--probably something he could've composed during the In Your Honor sessions. Throughout the album, there are moments of call and response between guitars. It may even go as far as dueling. That tension and partnership may be most blatant on "Elipsos" or "4_20."

The mix throughout is ideal. Each instrument maintains its own space, while also fitting snugly and blending perfectly. And the sound remains bright--not excessively so--even in the darker, warmer, or more complex moments. This isn't "Mary Had a Little Lamb," easy listening, or smooth jazz. It's rock, with clarity.

"The Wolf and The Hawk" has an opening that could be the most beautiful thing recorded in the past 15 years. This track hurts good to listen to - like breaking up with someone you still love. There's nothing left to say, but so much to feel.

I will definitely add a few of these tracks to my playlists.


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