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Sen3’s live album is the sound of inventiveness stretching its muscles

Last updated on April 6, 2020

Sen3‘s Live shows off the electric guitar/electric bass/drums trio in their natural habitat. Their funk/jazz/post-rock work feels like it should be spread across the relatively unconfined spaces of a live setting, as it has an expansive, heady feel to it. There’s a lot of ambition to go around, and they pay it all off in these six cuts. Tracks like opener “The Drop” perform a magic trick: there’s nothing but the three instruments (no keys, tracks, or background stuff, just the trio) and yet the music sounds much bigger and fuller than a three-person outfit should.

They’re not missing anything in their efforts, and this is due in large part to their incredibly smart and powerful bass work from Dan Gulino. When guitarist Max O’Donnell goes for lead lines or flights of experimental fancy, Gulino’s bass keeps the song going through inventive register changes (sounds like going high up on the neck?) or picking patterns. The drums also help with this sort of role, as Saleem Raman puts down complex, yes-to-everything beats that seem like they’d quickly give you more muscles on your arms. (See album art.) Gulino and Raman give the O’Donnell’s guitar plenty of room to roam, and that’s to the listener’s benefit.

The aforementioned “The Drop” is a perfect opener statement, as it establishes the funk, jazz, and post-rock bonafides of the outfit in seven and a half wide-ranging minutes. Follow-on “Night Pay” delves into their post-rock ideas, experimenting with a nervy, spacious, atmospheric, minor-key mood. “The Rinse” is a full-on jazz workout, which each of the three players going flat-out on their efforts to create the speedy piece. The wah-guitar and thumb-flickin’ bass of “Benson Dealer” are totally funktacular.

It’s “Plate Vice” that really stands out, though. It’s a funky jam with a torrential post-rock piece layered on top of it–and then a wild guitar solo thrown on top of that. It’s the sort of song where it seems like the big conclusion is here and they’re only five and half minutes in to an eight-minute adventure. After the big apex, it drops back down into some exploratory jazz stuff for a two-minute coda. It’s also got a lot more tricks than on the other tracks; there are more guitar effects and loops than in other pieces. They make it go, though, so maybe they should try out some more tricks soon.

Live is the sound of an inventive band stretching their muscles. I’ve been listening to this album for weeks and just keep coming back to it for the pure joy of it. You can analyze it as you wish; they’ve got the chops to keep you in words. But ultimately this is just joyful, fascinating music. Highly recommended.