Review: SEF III – Selling SEF III (Ehse, Jun 1)

Concept albums, story albums, sound operas, whatever the hell you want to call them; they’re hard to get right, and even harder to really get right. Especially when the story you’re telling is about a mortal struggle between a guy named Phil and his computer, and the accompanying music consists of surreal electronic compositions. But no one is better equipped for this task than the trio of Max Eilbacher, Duncan Moore, and Alex Moskos, who are now known under the same name as the artificial antagonist: SEF III. Selling SEF III is a much more cohesive and complete offering than their last release on Ehse, and manages to pull off both the ambitious narrative and the bizarre sonic elements. “Introductory Remarks From the Musicians,” temporarily absent of any spoken word, instead presents exactly what its title would imply: a demonstration of the breadth of sound the trio can conjure up, raising fluid mechanical chunks that immediately overwhelm. “The Machine’s Theme” introduces the villain through an ominous sung mantra, and from then on the listener is sucked into the quirky sci-fi adventures of Phil and SEF III, in which both humor and unease are always present in equal measure. “Three Counts and You’re Damned at a Subaltern Party,” the penultimate and longest track on the record, ends the story with what I’d interpret to be the victory of SEF III, with metallic electronics swirling and leading into a reprise of the theme from the beginning, which is so much more disquieting this time around. Selling SEF III neither takes itself too seriously nor ever gets unappealing silly, and is certainly one of the most unique and rewarding things I’ve heard this year.

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