New release out on Candy Rat Records.
Spencer Elliott is a guitarist out of West Virginia whose fourth album, SE3, is out on Candy Rat records on April 8. SE3 proves both varied and enlightening. Convention is dumped neatly out of the window from the start, and although Spencer Elliot is known chiefly as a progressive-rock-acoustic guitarist, here is a mix of prog-rock, funk, metal, acoustic, and neoclassical, and a touch of jazz. Spencer Elliot's mission seems to be to strip back the music to its elemental core, then reconstruct it to create a sophisticated playground of complex musical arrangements. In this, he largely succeeds, aided and abetted by drummer Chris Hudson (Chris Potter, Mike Richmond, and Dave Allen) and Sean Sydnor (Byzantine), who bring their experience and intuitive playing to the album.
Spencer Elliot's playing on this album journeys into different genres, mixes things up and transforms into music that sounds familiar yet has new vibes. SE3 is a great example of the give and take, ebb and flow, of good music and is a breathtaking musical conversation.
Spencer Elliott began composing instrumental music on piano growing up in West Virginia and was influenced by contemporary composers like George Winston. He later picked up the guitar and became influenced by punk and progressive alternative music. Spencer performed as a vocalist and occasional guitarist in several punk and alternative bands for more than two decades. In 2007 Spencer turned his focus to the steel-string guitar. He spent several years taking inspiration from and studying compositions by Hedges, Ross, McKee, Dufour, and other musicians. Spencer pulled compositional elements from his piano background and his affinity for edgier guitar music in his progressive fingerstyle pieces. His compositions reflect a diverse background of styles and influences, and he creates melodic and percussive landscapes that fuse these.
"Torque" opens the album, and from the outset, the echoing beauty of the steel guitar is felt in full. The gentle opening gives way to a thrumming, rocky rhythm with emphasis on the percussive rhythms provided by the drums and the bass, which thunks patterns, over which the steel guitar introduces melodies and themes. The bass solo is loud and proud, and the emphasis changes add even more interest. There is a complexity to the track, which reveals itself in the layered textures, which occasionally reveal the lines underneath.
"Silver Maple"' is a gentler affair, with a fast, waltz rhythm pattern, and the steel guitar sings out the theme. The percussion line is interesting, and Chris Hudson intuitively knows when to throw the rhythm to offer contrast and when to provide a supportive pattern for the guitar. There are some great pullbacks to the rhythm in places, which give the track an almost lilting feel and lift the lines immensely. A beautiful track.
" The Tournament" is a track with something for everyone. From deep, well-worked bass lines to excelling solo steel acoustic and clever, tricky drumming, there is a nod to punk, a sprinkling of rock, a delicate lacing of folk, and just a touch of something which defies naming. The rhythms change, the emphasis develops and fades, and the melody alters and weaves through a section. There is too much to try to describe -it is just lovely.
And this is how the album is - many references to familiar styles. Yet, somehow they are drawn together to create a unique, lyrical, narrative musical landscape through which we are led and guided by safe hands.
"Joystick" is rhythmic and pacey, and each instrument shines on this creative, well-arranged number. It sometimes feels as if it is about to veer into a thematic rock number, but then you are brought back from the brink to a new take on the rhythm while the melody lines are worked and looped again, yet - ta-dah! - different!
"Rain Shadow" is thematic, with bass setting the tone and 12 note rhythmic pattern as the steel guitar rises and swells, the middle section led by the steel, while the bass and drums provide support before the track reverts briefly to the bass domination with the drums' reactive rhythms adding emphasis and ending with the ensemble together.
"Elipsos" is a shaped, lighter number with driving rhythm, steel guitar singing out against rock-beat from the drums in a contrasting narrative, while '4_20' feels anthemic at the start but quickly develops into a quirky, off-kilter rhythm with some unconventional patterns and changes and a jazz reference which surfaces frequently.
"Insignificant" is a track of contrasts and phrases; each worked to contrast and complement each other. The rhythm pattern of the opening is repeated in heavier tones, then again, and then loops again. In this number, the complexity of Elliot Spencer's chosen style of fingerstyle delivery and, at times, the notes almost merge into each other as he plays them, but it works, particularly in contrast to the clarity of the bass and precision of the drums.
"The Wolf And The Hawk" is a track where there is a sense of the hunt with the subtle, quieter interludes, where it feels like hiding and the contrasting movement of the alternating phrases. The guitar excels here, and the purity of the sonic effects of the steel strings are clear.
"There's Something In The Airlock" is the final track ( and the new single) and features melodic lines over impressive percussive support from the drums and the bass. Around the 2.20 mark, there is a beautifully worked steel guitar section which, together with the entry of the bass and drums, demonstrates perhaps more than any other tack the uniqueness of Spencer Elliot's playing.
SE3 is an album of discovery and intrigue. The rhythms are crisp, clean, and varied, the themes are clear, and the structure of each piece is so well worked you almost sense when a change or ending is coming to the note. This is not to say it is over-familiar because each time you head towards a zone of familiar comfort, there is a surprise and something which grabs your ear. This album was a joy to listen to. "Silver Maple" was released on February 11 and comes with a live music video. The Single ' There's Something In The Airlock' is out on Spotify and YouTube
'Torque' was the lead single released on January 14, 2022, with an accompanying live music video release.
Websites: Candyrat Records artist page: https://www.candyrat.com/artists/spencerelliott/ Official Website: https://www.spencerelliott.net/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spencerelliottmusic Twitter: https://twitter.com/SpencerDElliott Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spencerelliottmusic/ Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6iCE6UZ8ksUuPto1L317uU Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/candyrat