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Spencer Elliott - SE3 (CandyRat Records)

26 February 2022

If there’s one thing you can count on in this world, it’s that music journalist love categorizing bands into any number of obscure genres, but SE3, the new album by West Virginia guitarist Spencer Elliott might be that rare record which magically eludes all of that. Although Elliott is influenced by the likes of TOOL and Red Hot Chili Peppers, the music itself sounds nothing like any of that, sitting somewhere indefinite between metal, progressive rock, funk, and neo-classical. The artist throws a further curve ball by playing acoustic guitar, but this instrumental record is anything but easy listening or safe.

From the offset, “Torque,” Elliott packs the album with complex arrangements and dizzying acrobatic feats on the guitar. The sound is self-described as a “gumbo” of numerous styles, but what quickly emerges as the dominant motif is Elliott’s unique and virtuosic finger-style playing. It’s not about flashiness, however, and everything played here feels important and necessary to building the atmosphere of each song, from the brooding intensity of “Rain Shadow” to the funk-inspired “4:20.”

SE3 is a sizeable album, but every moment differs so greatly from the one before it that not once does Elliott ever run the risk of repetitiveness, like so many other instrumental creations. It’s a tour de force of technicality, but more importantly, SE3 is so fantastically addictive and challenging that it firmly lodges itself in your brain like a work of art you have known your entire life.