ponedjeljak, 6. svibnja 2013.

Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol 3 (2013)


Završni dio izgradnje i rušenja Rimskog carstva običnim saksofonom. Opće mišljenje: Impressive, difficult / arduous, pellmell / disorientating, visceral / affecting, physical / ethereal, superhuman / supernatural, mesmerizing / stupefying / engrossing, complicated polyphonies / tonal minimalism, sprawling / cinematic / dramatic, intangible / tangible, corporeal / transcendental, experimental / avant-garde / abstract, inventive, idiosyncratic / unusual, real / surreal, organic


Colin Stetson established himself as an intensely original solo composer and performer in 2011 with the release of the widely acclaimed New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges. Judges ended up on countless year-end lists and emphatically proved that Stetson's approach to solo saxophone transcends niche or genre; a unique and emotionally resonant instrumental music with influences as wide-ranging as jazz, metal, pop, soul, drone, industrial, minimalism, electro-acoustic and modern contemporary.
Remarkably, Stetson channels these manifold musical strains into a singularly identifiable and personal sound as a polyphonic soloist who doesn't rely on looping/layering or multi-track/overdubs technologies. Anyone who has seen Stetson in solo performance can attest to the stunning physicality of his circular-breathing technique and capacity to produce a seemingly impossible palate of multiple voicings simultaneously in real time – making his already beautiful and evocative compositions all the more enrapturing and viscerally human.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is the final installment in a trilogy of solo albums and is Stetson’s most ambitious song cycle to date, again recorded live in single takes with a wide array of microphone positions and again mixed by groundbreaking producer Ben Frost. Colin's membership in Bon Iver over the past two years has also led to vocal contributions from Justin Vernon for this record, who appears on four songs, with a diverse approach on each, and whose voice constitutes the only overdubbing on the album.
The record's 15-minute centerpiece, title track "To See More Light", is the longest piece Stetson has yet recorded and possibly the heaviest: a tour de force of swirling arpeggiation, continuous breathing, pumping valves and vocalizations through the reed of the horn that gives way to a tremendous, screaming, sea-sawing dirge through the song's final movement. This latter stretch conjures a sort of saxophonic sludge metal, and the album's heaviosity references other sub-genres of metal as well, most notably in the hardcore blast of "Brute" (abetted by Vernon's cookie monster barking) and the ambient grindcore throb of "Hunted". In other instances, the album is soulful and even hymnal, especially where Vernon's vocals play a lead role: opener "And In Truth" (featuring Vernon's most instantly recognisable contribution, of massed, multi-tracked harmonies), the cover of Washington Phillips' gospel tune "What Are They Doing In Heaven Today", and "Who The Waves Are Roaring For" where Vernon delivers one of the more tender and honest vocal performances we've heard from him in any context.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is the most cohesive and fully realized of Stetson's solo albums to date. It should reliably stand as the apotheosis of the New History Warfare trilogy, and certainly signals the full flourishing of Stetson's unique talents as both composer and performer, pressing his arsenal of virtuosic techniques into the service of vivid, impassioned and conceptually astute songcraft. - cstrecords.com/

“Impressive, difficult / arduous, pellmell / disorientating, visceral / affecting, physical / ethereal, superhuman / supernatural, mesmerizing / stupefying / engrossing, complicated polyphonies / tonal minimalism, sprawling / cinematic / dramatic, intangible / tangible, corporeal / transcendental, experimental / avant-garde / abstract, inventive, idiosyncratic / unusual, real / surreal, organic.” – every discussion about Colin Stetson ever (via The Internet)
“Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes, each of them lying deep in our nature. First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood […] [and] the pleasure felt in things imitated. Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. […] Next, there is the instinct for ‘harmony’ and rhythm, meters being manifestly sections of rhythm. Persons, therefore, starting with this natural gift developed by degrees their special aptitudes, till their rude improvisations gave birth to Poetry.” 
– from Poetics by Aristotle, Translated by S. H. Butcher
“I feel like when we talk about post-apocalyptic themes that’s what we’re really talking about. We’re always returning to this sense of being alone in a strange new place where all is bleak and all is lost. And it is this sense of isolation that permeates the whole album. I wanted to go into the balance between fear and transcendence.” – Colin Stetson, on New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (via The Quietus)
“A little bit behind the beat
I mean just enough to turn you on
For every time she said the words
Another one of his doubts were gone.”  
– from “Joy in Repetition” by Prince
“A lot of people say a lot of crazy shit.” – Colin Stetson, on his music’s reception in the jazz community (via The Quietus)
“Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive for us — for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. […] To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.” – from “Conclusion” to The Renaissance by Walter Pater
“Jimi Hendrix: ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’: You almost can’t run because this song makes your dick so hard. Give it time, you’ll get used to it.” – Colin Stetson, on music to exercise to (via Pitchfork)
“Sexual masochism falls under the psychiatric sexual disorders category of paraphilias, meaning “abnormal or unnatural attraction.” Sexual masochism refers to engaging in or frequently fantasizing about being beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer, resulting in sexual satisfaction.” – Definition of sexual masochism (via Psychology Today)
“…the addition of unnaturals is what I avoid.” – Colin Stetson, on his studio techniques (via Stereogum)
So what do we have so far: purgation through replication of painful incident, jubilation through repetitive experience, sustained ecstasy through moment-by-moment impression, universality through singularity, carnal pleasure through extended discomfort, decoction through imperfection, perfection through reckless abandon, realization through isolation and unfamiliarity — a greater catharsis pied by momentary euphorias.
With all of that by way of general preamble on Colin Stetson, a more explicit dissection of the completing entry of his New History Warfare trilogy is in order. First of all, To See More Light is the most dynamic and sonically prismatic album of the trilogy, and yet it manages to retain all of Stetson’s music’s singular attributes and poignancies, as connoted above. Even more importantly, the album is entirely distinguishable from any of Stetson’s prior work, maintaining a cohesive character throughout the album’s implied narrative that, notwithstanding the physicality of the music, seems to be happening more in the mind than in the physical world of Judges.
Many of Stetson’s melodies seem to have adopted a hymnal quality from touring with Bon Iver — the melody in “This Bed of Shattered Bone” being the obvious example — with Justin Vernon’s own multi-tracked, “choir of lonely souls” vocals gracing three songs with a gospel affectation. “Who the Waves Are Roaring For” contains the most thorough coalescence between the vocal contribution and Stetson’s foundational work, with both artists catering to each other’s strengths to the point that the track wouldn’t be entirely out of place onBon Iver, Bon Iver. Love him or hate him, Vernon’s vocals add a unique personality to the album that distinguishes it from its Laurie Anderson-featuring predecessor’s less ambiguous vocal work. Vernon’s canticle-like sonic anecdotes of hope also keep Stetson’s trilogy from potentially becoming a suffocating deluge.
In spite of Vernon’s presence, Stetson’s prior themes of isolation from Judgespersist but, with the exception of the aptly titled “Hunted,” more in the form of anxious, isolated waiting than isolation in a state of active pursuit. Still, tension permeates almost all of Stetson’s saxophone playing and vocalizations, serving as the black to Vernon’s white and painting the album’s world in high-contrast. The melodies in both “High Above a Grey Green Sea” and “Among the Sef (Righteous)” — and these songs are melodic in a sense that you could never attribute to Stetson’s previous work — could have come straight out of Thom Yorke’s post-Y2K playbook, but there’s a more tactile sense of aching inflected through Stetson’s strained moans, making the anxiety more physical even amid incorporeal adversity.
Nowhere on the album is this sense of dramatic tribulation more palpable than on the audacious title track: this is the boss level, and by the time the song’s incline gives way to its slowing midpoint, you know that there’s no more running — it’s time to take a Michael Gira power-up and out-terrify the enigmatic enmity. Judging by the triumphantly chaotic conclusion to the latter half’s stress-test stomp, there’s real success — roll credits. This finale, along with the bellicose “Brute,” offer the starkest polarity between Judges and To See More Light: this time there’s actual winning — or at least not just running, those who didn’t run, and those who laid their bodies down — and Stetson’s Liturgy fandom is more present in these metallic bombardments than it was when he wore their t-shirt on national television.
Overall, Stetson hasn’t altered his approach much, but the results are more variegated, resonant, and almost religiously cathartic. If Judges was the darkness before the dawn, then To See More Light is the revealing of an impeded Sun, proving that sometimes what the light reveals can be more harrowing than what’s hidden in the dark.
“…with [the ancients], the poetical character of the action in itself, and the conduct of it, was the first consideration.” – from the “Preface to the First Edition of Poems” by Matthew Arnold
“Pleas’d with his idol, he commends, admires,
Adores; and last, the thing ador’d, desires.”

– “The Story of Pygmalion and the Statue” in Metamorphoses by Ovid, translated by Sir Samuel Garth, et al.
“…he was able to absorb so much of himself into his instrument. […] It’s almost as if you can see the solo coming out of the expression of his face and the movement of his mouth.” – Colin Stetson, on the influence of Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies (via Chart Attack)
I can’t avoid reflecting on why the process through which Colin Stetson makes his music is so inextricably tied to the music itself, for I think this must be what accounts for the surprisingly wide appeal of his music, regardless of its inherent difficulty. Like Hendrix, his relationship with his instrument becomes as important as what he expresses through it. Not everyone is able to digest profound works of poetry, but success in art is undeniable, even for the uninitiated, when the action is the poetry, when what’s expressed is the means of expression itself. If Colin Stetson creates art through an instrument that is the art, then his music becomes creation itself: in the same way that Pygmalion breathed life into his ivory love, Stetson very literally breathes life into his instrument, and in turn, like the statue transformed from stone to flesh, his music softens our hardened selves — it reminds us that we were once made, too. 

Colin Stetson is a solo brass and woodwind artist. But to simply leave it there is akin to saying “Heisenberg studied science” without a word on the uncertainty principle, or the mapping and thawing of the atom, or any mention of the nuclear age. With a single instrument and Ben Frost’s cubist production, Stetson has produced an album of superlatives: “Brute” is the most fascinating hard rock track of the last five years, a feat which Stetson achieved without a guitar, drum kit or distortion pedal. “To See More Light” is a soundtrack without a film attached, Stetson’s longest work to date, and possibly the finest song of the new year. The forthcoming album features vocals by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, perhaps the most distinctive and genuine voice of today’s baroque rock scene.
The release is titled To See More Light, and it closes out Stetson’s New History Warfare trilogy. (Try not panic. Remember that Return of the King was just the beginning for Peter Jackson.)
His biography and techniques are pretty well known by now: the sustained notes, the ethereal humming, the single-take, live-in-studio ethic with no looping, effects, or overdub. His one-man, one-instrument compositions are more physically demanding with each subsequent release, and for this he has described his tour preparations as monastic: a yoga routine, reduced alcohol intake, no cigarettes. For those listeners who are just sure they have heard tom toms in there somewhere, that strange, matte percussion is actually a real-time microscope view of Stetson’s hands at work. This recording method couples his finger drumming to the vibrations of the reed without nesting one into other, and is unlike anything else being recorded with acoustic instruments or laptop. Examples? The thumping, self-distorted “Hunted” manages to alternately pull off animal-like and machine-like in the same track. “High Above a Grey Green Sea” bewitches and reverberates. “Brute,” as mentioned above, pulses with distortion and a concussive force that could easily be mistaken as heavy metal. Vernon–in a primal bark that draws immediate Jeckyll/Hyde metaphors–spits out letters that never really spell any words.
The choral, reverent and still “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today” stands in nice contrast to its more kinetic surroundings. “This Bed of Shattered Bone” repackages Stetson’s instrument as slap bass and harmonica. But the true highlight is the title track: “To See More Light” is 15 minutes of ebb and flow, a stage presentation in three acts. The song begins as a street corner solo, a ballet in sound, and moments like these are when Stetson earns the otherwise misleading description experimental jazz. The opening minutes are fleet-footed and somewhat mathematical, and they belie the dense, tectonic grunge of the following segment. This second movement is too slow for the mosh pit – and far too innovative – but first impressions remain. The virtuoso returns with a triumphant pop climax rewritten for brass and larynx.
Stetson must really be a sight in the studio, with the business ends of microphones pointed at his throat, hands and saxophone. Let’s never mind that. Brass may have never lost its cool, but until the New History Warfare series, it was never cool like this.- Fred Nolan for Fluid Radio

As provocative is Colin Stetson's New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light, which sees the alto, tenor, and bass saxophonist once again offering bravura solo performances recorded live in single takes. A major selling point for the recording is the presence of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon on four tracks (his singing constitutes the only overdubbing on the album), though the idea is no crass marketing ploy as Stetson has been a Bon Iver member for over two years. In the final installment of a trilogy that saw its middle part, 2011's New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, show up on many a year-end list, Stetson mesmerizes the listener with a remarkable display of gut-busting circular-breathing technique—a display all the more impressive considering that it was all done sans overdubs or loops.
“And in Truth” finds Stetson's flutter and Vernon's multi-tracked vocals inaugurating the album with an impassioned gospel-like statement of intent, before the saxophonist digs into “Hunted” with a rabid roar, the attack so intense his vocal utterances wail through the instrument in tandem with the sax's guttural bark. His voice also appears during “High Above a Grey Green Sea,” though this time as a ghostly swoon haunting the soulful instrumental flow. Some surprising stylistic tendencies seep into the material, with “Brute” even sneaking in a bit of funk alongside Vernon's death metal-styled growl and “Who The Waves Are Roaring For (Hunted II)” and “Part of Me Apart From You” conjuring feelings of near-ecstatic uplift. But the album's obvious centerpiece is the fifteen-minute “To See More Light,” the longest piece Stetson has recorded to date and a stunning exercise that sees Stetson push nonstop arpeggiation, vocal exhortations, and dizzying melodic swirl to their seeming breaking point. As striking is the middle section wherein the tempo slows to a grinding crawl before resuming speed for the coda.
Propelled by light-speed arpeggios (e.g., “Among The Sef (Righteous II)”), Stetson's music often barrels forth with the relentlessness of a runaway train, and its physical robustness makes it feel almost as powerful and unstoppable. Adding to the considerable impression left by the album is the ease with which it freely ranges across styles and genres—soul, folk, experimental, metal, industrial, and gospel (the latter heard most directly in the cover of Washington Phillips' “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?”) among them. To call it amazing is no exaggeration. - textura.org

Colin Stetson is a classically trained saxophone player who uses circular breathing to play more notes in a song than Steve Vai and Joe Satriani combined and plays them on the outré four-and-a-half foot tall bass saxophone. That would ostensibly make Stetson something like a prog musician, no? That word “prog” — one of the more vulgar invectives in music. Prog means lauding technique over emotions, showmanship over honesty, 7/8 over 4/4. The stigma of prog is that it’s music of the bourgeois and the privileged, dismissed easily as a selfish exercise with no politics, no agency, or worst of all, no soul.
And in addition to the circular breathing, the tens-of-thousands of notes, and the non-canon woodwind instrument, Stetson also — somehow — sings through his mouthpiece while he plays, creating these avian melodies over thatches of saxophone arpeggios. Maybe other saxophone players see him as the Cheap Trick of the saxophone, a gimmick like Rahsaan Roland Kirk playing three saxophones at once or Michael Brecker doing a stunt spectacular on an EWI. His tone is far from that of the classical saxophone tone, and he doesn’t improvise his way around jazz charts. He’s an outlying rebel in the classical and jazz words, so of course the degenerates of rock and experimental music welcome him with open arms and standing gigs with Bon Iver and TV on the Radio.
But to most ears, Stetson’s music is hard to classify. He’s more interested in masking the technique it takes to produce these sounds; sounds that so few people even understand in the first place. The strange frequencies and wave forms he creates are a paradox: they are alien but human, technically astounding but filled with passion — the saxophone acts as a medium of expression tied to his whole body. You can hear the key pads thwacking against the sound holes. You can hear him sneak a breath at odd intervals. You can hear emotion cook from his diaphragm. This isn’t prog.
And if you took one thing away from that Bikram Yoga class, it’s that our life is connected to our breath. We breathe or we die. The saxophone becomes not only an object of expression like a guitar but an extension of Stetson’s voice. There’s no Peter Frampton talk box, there’s no Fruity Loops, there’s just this unrelenting physical force, sometimes violent sometimes serene, that breathes and breathes and breathes.
For three volumes in the New History Warfare, that’s what Stetson has been doing. He’s found a way to obscure and subvert his emotions in way that transcends “prog” and technique until it becomes just a wholly singular form of expression: Stetsonesque ragas. Vol 3: To See More Light is his strongest and most cohesive collection in his career, aided in large part by the head-turning vocals of Justin Vernon, who appears on four of the 11 tracks on the album.
Vernon’s voice in Bon Iver is often texture over clarity, like the dense collage at the end of “The Wolves (Act I and II)” or Kanye’s favorite loop in “Woods”. Vernon takes a page out of Stetson’s all-in strategy and performs not only his brumal falsetto, but strays into a beer-tent blues voice on “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?”, and a pig-fuck hardcore bark on “Brute”. Vernon’s horrifying screams are just a shred of truth away from literally unbelievable. You’d think it was a Dominick Fernow from Prurient or just a poor soul in a torture porn movie if it didn’t say J. Vernon right there in the liner notes.
Of course in Stetson’s world, in the New History Warfare trilogy, Vernon can sound like that. The language of the album is so foreign, its etymology so obscure, that accepting musical anomalies become apart of the language itself. Vernon sounds like Dave Matthews, Stetson sounds like a lost whale — whatever kind of corollary you want to draw to try to translate the immense language that Stetson sings in.
It’s not always easy to do. Stetson finds notes buried in other notes, microtones, and harmonics that leak out of his saxophone fill the air with a gigantic spectrum of sound. There’s so much sound that unless the aural apertures are all the way open, his songs hardly fit in the ear. The album’s centerpiece, the 15-minute title track, is enormous enough, but the drama and drone has a plot like a war film: a battle in a hail of trills and scales, respite and contemplation in the dust it kicked up, and a slow funeral dirge to march us off. It’s demanding, but with Vernon always nearby to help organize the chaos, and little recapitulations of melody lines from “High Above the Grey Green Sea” in “Among the Sef”, there’s enough buoys to get a sense that there’s land here…somewhere.
Which brings it back to the paradox of the album, and even perhaps its language. While Stetson’s harmonies sound random or even aleatory when you consider a saxophone’s physics, every song is grounded in rhythm. The cylinders that drive the dynamic ”Hunted” come from Stetson’s breath, the most human thing there is. As otherworldly as he sounds when he let’s out a yawp and his saxophone starts ravenously chewing on some baritone notes like a hungry dog, there’s a direct connection to who Stetson is, his emotions, his beliefs. He’s closer to Tuvan throat singing than Albert Ayler, and maybe closer to Swans’ noisy dramas than to John Coltrane, but the language of all of those artists melt into his work. It’s the closest thing to a universal language music has to offer — and you’ve never heard anything like it. JEREMY D. LARSON 

New History Warfare Vol.2: Judges


Once in a while, I can convince myself that it's impossible to say anything truly new in music. There has been so much music made and documented in the last 50 years, my thinking goes, that the best we can hope for is an artful re-combination of elements of the past (which seems like more than enough, most of the time). But then I'll come across a new record that sounds like nothing else I've heard: I can't quite place it, but its appeal feels so organic and easy to understand, I don't really feel a need to place it, either. Such is the case with the second solo album from Michigan-born, Montreal-based saxophonist Colin Stetson,New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges.
A few things about this record make it highly unusual. First, Stetson generally records his pieces solo, live, and in a single take. Some of these tracks have so much sound, so many cross-crossing and overlapping elements, it simply doesn't seem possible that one musician is making them in real time. "Judges" has clattering percussion, a menacing bassline, and a growling lead element that sounds like an anguished voice processed in a strange way. Well, the percussion turns out to be a close-mic'd recording of the instruments' keys being manipulated, the low-end comes from the fact that Stetson plays the enormous bass saxophone and has a good sense of how to underpin a tune with a deep pulse, and the lead voice is indeed his voice-- Stetson vocalizing through the horn as he blows. That all of these things come together at once in a piece that is compelling and highly musical is nothing short of miraculous. The key to Stetson's approach is that he uses an array of microphones placed in strategic places-- on the horn, on his neck, on the other side of the room-- and then mixes everything down into a churning cauldron of sound (engineer Efrim Menuck fromGodspeed/A Silver Mt Zion and producer Shahzad Ismaily had their work cut out for them, and they succeed brilliantly; Ben Frost is equally great on the mix). Stetson has also mastered the technique of circular breathing-- playing continuously with his mouth while breathing through his nose-- so that the sound can unspool unencumbered by his body's need for respiration.
The record does bring certain reference points to mind. When Stetson really gets the circular breathing going and unleashes a torrent of notes the climb up and down the scale, fans of free improv might think of solo material by players like Peter Brotzmann and Evan Parker, whose mind-boggling technique is put at the service of in-the-moment expression. But Warfare Vol. 2 doesn't sound much like improv or even jazz, despite our associations of the genre term with the solo horn. These pieces sound composed and carefully ordered, often closer to the precision of classical minimalism than the expressionism of fire jazz. And compared to someone like saxophonist/composer/bandleader Anthony Braxton, with whom Stetson has worked (if you are a virtuoso on bass sax, you're going to wind up working with Braxton, who greatly expanded the context for unusual reeds in jazz), Warfare feels less cerebral, almost like a "pop" version of some of those heady compositions.
So there's no prior experience needed here. You can dive in and immerse yourself in the swirl of musical color that is "From No Part of Me Could I Summon a Voice", in which Stetson's blast of notes, many per second, are recorded as though from across a vast stone space, each one vanishing into the air in a cloud of natural reverberation. Or marvel at the way Stetson makes a track like "Red Horse (Judges II)" sound almost as if it had a breakbeat, the slap of the keys on the instrument so pronounced in the mix you focus on the rhythm first and the texture of the air coming through the horn later.
Reinforcing the music's connection to both minimalism and pop, several tracks here feature the vocals of Laurie Anderson, whose approach is a natural fit with this material. "A Dream of Water" features her clear and hypnotic voice articulating memorable imagery ("There were those who lived in the crawlspace/ There were people lighting candles") over a grinding and relentless arpeggiated figure from Stetson. "All the Colors Bleached to White (ILAIJ II)" begins with Anderson's vocal and a swelling chorus of voices and then shifts gears to a hard, noir-ish stomp whose deep tones can easily shake an entire room. Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond joins the proceedings on a powerful and affecting cover of Blind Willie Johnson's "Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes", a mutant, arted-up blues that reminds me of the overlooked album of Ekkehard Ehlers, A Life Without Fear, the way it abstracts a folk idiom and boils it down to a central emotional idea.
Like the rest of the record (and Vol. 1 is also excellent, if not quite as varied or powerful), "Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes" feels like music I've been subconsciously craving without even knowing it exists. And though New Warfare Vol. 2 is easy to enjoy on a purely musical level, as sound, without bothering about the underlying ideas or any notions of how it's made, it's also a gratifying reminder that horizons of musical expression are so much more vast than prevailing trends would indicate. - Mark Richardson

Colin Stetson's 2008 album New History Warfare, Vol. 1 showcased the saxophonist/multi-reedist's phenomenal multiphonic improvisation style and circular breathing technique. Released in 2011, New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges features a similar exploratory solo saxophone approach that is nothing short of mind-blowing. Stetson uses the circular breathing style, recorded in single takes and occasionally with overdubs, to create atmospheric and hypnotic loops that sound like layered analog keyboards more than saxophones. In that sense, the tracks here often bring to mind something along the lines of Jean Michel Jarre crossed with Roscoe Mitchell. These tracks allow Stetson to skronk and pulse, wheeze and then soar with white jet-engine noise that is never purposeless and always controlled. Also featured here are a few spoken word sections with avant-garde icon Laurie Anderson -- including the poetic "A Dream of Water" -- that lend a cinematic quality to the proceedings. Elsewhere, vocalist Shara Worden delivers a haunting lead on the spiritual "Lord I Just Can't Keep from Crying Sometimes." Primarily, however, it isStetson's transcendent and muscular ability to layer sound, breath, and rhythm in a meditative compositional style that sticks with you long after Judges is over. . www.allmusic.com/

New History Warfare Vol​.​1 streaming

This needs to be said up front: Colin Stetson is an absolute master of the saxophone. He has formidable breath control and circular breathing technique, a great sense of dynamics, and extremely impressive control over multiphonics and timbral changes: he can basically do anything that can be done with a saxophone (and maybe some things that can't). Although there is just a touch of studio treatment on a couple tracks and sampled, spoken intros to a couple more, New History Warfare, Vol. 1 is essentially an album of solo saxophone performances with no overdubbing. But this is no platform for free blowing and empty showboating; these pieces are clearly through-composed. Whether the track is one minute long or eight, there is an easily discernible structure, clear logic, and a strong sense of forward momentum to each of these tunes. Stetson's ability to build separate musical lines on top of each other is nothing short of astonishing. It's something like Rahsaan Roland Kirk playing two different melodies against a drone, except Kirk did it on three horns and Stetson is doing it on one.
"And It Fought to Escape" is a perfect encapsulation of Stetson's style. It begins almost imperceptibly as a percussive pulse is established with the saxophone keys playing against a breathy background. He then adds bits of melody on top until he is having a conversation between different registers of the saxophone while somehow maintaining the pulse. The breath control and dynamics are amazing, as are the soundshe makes with his saxophone. Switching gears, "Groundswell" almost sounds like a flute/bass duet at times. On "Nobu Take," Stetson's clarinet sounds more like a keyboard, simultaneously evoking Eastern European folk music and electronica, while "Tiger Tiger Crane" begins with what sounds like beatboxing through the sax. But Stetson's musicality far outweighs any notion of gimmicks. The pieces are deeply focused and never overstay their welcome. Not only that, but the strong structures and internal logic of the pieces make them far more listenable than many so-called avant-garde recordings.
New History Warfare, Vol. 1 is a truly impressive, fully formed, and highly individual musical statement. It's amazing from a purely technical standpoint, but Stetson's compositions and ability to tell a musical story are what make this a great album. You haven't heard saxophone music quite like this. No one else could have written this music because no one plays quite like Colin Stetson. Truly impressive. Evan Parker fans, take note: this guy is someone to watch. - www.allmusic.com/

Those Who Didn't Run

It’s been nearly 40 years since Roland Barthes first theorized what he called the “grain of the voice.” And whether or not you’re familiar with his famous essay, I think it’s fair to say that the idea, if not necessarily the vocabulary, has wormed its way well into the collective critical consciousness by this point. For Barthes, the “grain” was the “body in the voice as it sings.” Not, or not merely, timbre: the “grain” of a voice, if it has one, consists precisely in the irreducibility of its significance, its weight, to the conventions of technique, style, or genre. Simon Frith famously heard grain in Elvis. “In the end,” he wrote, “this is the only way to explain his appeal: not in terms of what he ‘stood for,’ socially or personally, but by reference to thegrain of the voice.” For Frith, Elvis celebrated “more sensuously, more voluptuously than any other rock ‘n’ roll singer — the act of symbol creation itself.” Grain, in other words, is the difference between James Brown and his backing singers, between Frank Sinatra and the Boobster. The shame with Billy Holiday was that she ended up having too much of it. With Sigur Rós, we celebrate Jónsi’s delivery precisely because his voice has none. The brilliance of his voice, in other words, is precisely the fact that it manages to sounddisembodied.
We’re pretty comfortable now with those sorts of claims, in thinking about voice in this register. But we’re a little less so when it comes to instrumental music. This was an option explicitly left open by Barthes. “I can hear with certainty,” he wrote, “the certainty of the body, of thrill — that the harpsichord playing of Wanda Landowska comes from her inner body and not from the petty digital scramble of so many harpsichordists (so much so that it is a different instrument).” Simon Reynolds is rare for having taken Barthes’ invitation in this respect seriously. In a piece for a special issue of Melody Maker on “Vocal Heroes” in 1992, he suggested that we could think of the difference between Eric Clapton’s and Neil Young’s guitar playing in precisely these terms. Young’s “racked, wrenching one-chord solo on ‘Southern Man,’” he argued, “communicates more grainy anguish than a century of Clapton’s addle-daddle nuances.” (Pow! Take that, Clapton.)
What I want to suggest here is that it’s helpful — even essential — to think of Colin Stetson’s remarkable output over the last few years along precisely these sorts of lines. And that, in this respect, Those Who Didn’t Run, the brief but excellent follow-up to the astonishing New History of Warfare Vol 2: Judges, is no exception.
Let me then begin by repeating the gesture of demystification that introduces every review of a Stetson record I’ve ever read. As usual, both of the extraordinary, powerful, and hypnotic tracks collected here were recorded on solo saxophone, in a single take (frequently the first) and with (virtually) no effects applied post-production: just a little bit of “gating.” How come it all sounds so gnarled and cracked then? So little like an ordinary ‘saxophone’?Multiphonics. Those looped figures that seem to continue for minutes on end?Circular breathing. All the percussive, clicking sounds? Stetson mics up his instrument, inside and out. All that breathy rasping? He’s mic’d his throat too. And those melodic wails and moans? Ditto.
If all this technical detail seems somehow besides the point, it’s not. Stetson’s music sounds so exceptionally raw and muscular because it actually is. It requires a tremendous amount of effort and strain to produce it: a taut but fragile embouchure, a heaving chest, fingers frantically swirling, a throat and larynx swelling, a thin piece of wood and a tube of brass pushed to breaking point. Both a body and an instrument on the line.
Thanks to Barthes, we have a word for all of this. What we hear on the two superb tracks of Those Who Didn’t Run, as on its predecessors, is the body in Stetson’s instrument. This, in other words, is grain: mic’d up and amplified.
So when Ed Comentale, in his eloquent blurb on New History of Warfare Vol 2here on Tiny Mix Tapes, points to the “rhythmic clatter, dizzying arpeggios, hiss, crackle, moans, screams, and wails, all disconnected from their origins, as if the entire sonic world has been deterritorilized” (my italics), I can’t help but feel he’s missed the point somewhat. For me, in its celebration of liveness, body, and technique, Stetson’s work is concerned precisely with those origins. It involves not a disconnection from, but an exploration of the material potential in his instrument(s): an excursion to the outer limits of instrumentality, a commitment to resonance as the product of granular viscera: of throats and diaphragms and guts and lungs. 

When I first heard Colin Stetson's breakthrough LP-- a surprising thing for an experimental saxophonist to even have-- I pegged it to precursors such as Albert AylerJohn Zorn, andOrnette Coleman. The music was so animally energetic that it took me a while to realize how off-base this early impression had been. But while those free-jazz shamans embraced volatility, Stetson is much more aligned with minimalists like Philip Glass, which is to say that he restricts himself and knows exactly where he's going. Glass' longtime saxophonist Dickie Landry, whose excellently mellow 1977 album Fifteen Saxophones was reissued earlier this year, provides an intriguing precedent. Landry was a member of the Philip Glass Ensemble who played on Music in Twelve Parts, a piece whose edge-of-madness harmonic grind is in full force on Those Who Didn't Run. The title's whiff of courageous endurance gets more and more apt as Stetson pulverizes daisy-chained squalls for 10 minutes at a time, in two uncompromising arcs that exclude the airier respites of Judges.
Like Bryce Dessner and Glenn Kotche, Stetson adeptly straddles pop and the academy. And like Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, a big part of his magnetism derives from a combination of unusual music and bold feats of physical daring. A one-man polyphony machine, Stetson sets his feet in a resonant room and wires himself up like a cyborg, with microphones on the walls, all through his bass sax, and on his throat. Pointedly ignoring decades' worth of looping and overdubbing technology, he blows the bejeezus out of arcane contrapuntal variations over and over again, with phantom sounds gathering around the deep pulse. The music seems weirdly sentient because only the continuous cycle of breath pumping through it keeps it alive.
You wonder why Stetson doesn't just turn blue and fall down, and how one instrument can make so many different noises at once. Circular breathing accounts for the former (Stetson must play a mean didge) while inventive mixing accounts for the latter. The clack of keys becomes an insistent rhythm track, microphone signals fry into ambient ozone, and ghost voices reverberate through the reed. Not only does this technique make brainy variations feel hot and haunted, but it gives us a fresh vantage on the saxophone itself. Though it plays a highly respectable role in jazz, the instrument takes on cheesier cultural baggage as you move outward, from marching bands to soft pop to Sergio. By enlarging the inner workings of the sax, Stetson demolishes clichés to unleash fresh, unexpected energies. It's like being inside an enormous brass tunnel full of windy byways and slamming valves, at once exhilarating and frightening.
Here, Stetson pits the low end versus the high; granular texture versus crystalline purity; deep, earthy groove versus high, watery shine. On the A-side, grungy riffs churn over a thumping substructure of bass and key action, and on the B-side, the bottom falls out and we're transported to a completely different world, one cleansed of heavy metal and drone-rock traces. Stetson's horn spirals through an upper-register series of intervals that seem to be trying to wrench themselves free of each other, and the disparity between prettiness and conflict is riveting. Though this EP plows a narrower row than Judges, Stetson still manages to show us two very different aspects of his visceral minimalism. The only downside for me is that his music really thrives on accumulation, which is to say that it thrives in longer formats. I suspect that this EP serves as a palate-cleanser for the final volume of the New History Warfare trilogy, clearly polarizing Stetson's impulses for incantatory force and eerie beauty before drawing them back into a complex whole. . Brian Howe

Colin Stetson's Slow Descent,

Slow Descent (2003) streaming

Slow Descent is San Francisco reed master Colin Stetson's third outing as a leader. After all the years spent studying with Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill, and playing with everyone from Kenny Wollesen to Fred Frith to Tom WaitsStetson is coming into his own as a composer. For Slow Descent is nothing if not a signature piece for a fine young composer who tests his harmonic, dynamic, and textural mettle on each of the disc's seven tracks. The band is a fine assemblage of the best the Bay Area has to offer: the group features guitar maestro Roger Riedlbauer, trombonist Tom Yoder, bassist Eric Perney, and the drum dancer himself, Tim Strand is on board. Stetson learned a lot in his woodshedding years because his compositions don't feel or read like some free jazz kid pouring everything he knows into each piece. In fact, the subtlety and elegance in these works is matched only by the restraint and masterful control used to rein in harmonics and solos -- in order to serve the spirit of group interplay and melodic invention. On "The Day I Stopped Trying," Riedlbauer and Perney usher in a spare, hypnotic phrase as a way for the them to eventually emerge, rather than to assert itself as somehow separate. When the rest of the band files in, Strand first, then Yoder, then Stetson, the tune itself is unfolding into a series of start melodics that seemingly float upon, rather that overtake the repetitive phrase. Tempo is strictly adhered to, but there are no seams between the players. When its interval changes at about two-minutes and ten-seconds in, the counterpoint appears to offer an alternate melodic universe, and it feels like the most natural thing in the world. Solos come and go, from Riedlbauer's blues-inflected phraseology to Stetson's own out blowing -- it flows. Likewise, the two-part suite, "Slow Descent Into Happiness," explores in its loping manner the interplay between pastoral melodies, folk themes, and the sonorities that exist between the trombone and the saxophones, and explores that sound world as the terrain in which the actual shape of the music comes to be. There are beautiful emotions in Stetson's music. They never assert themselves as individually dominant, but as different aspects of a complex, yet deeply moving, graceful, and sophisticated inner world that sings with mystery and aplomb. Stetson has come firmly into his own here; the marks his masters have left on him have become the strains of his own braid. Like Bill Friselland Lester BowieStetson has meditated upon the music surrounding him and created a signature style that is both warmly accessible and brilliantly challenging. It'll be difficult to wait for what comes next. www.allmusic.com/

Colin Stetson & Mats Gustafsson, Stones

Stones pits two of the world’s most visible saxophonists head-to-head and, given the pair’s reputation for strength and power, you’d be forgiven for being braced against 35 minutes of skronking bravura. If so, the opening moments of “Stones That Can Rest Heavily” (the album is split into four tracks, although they are essentially all one piece) will be a bit of a surprise. Oh, Stetson’s bass sax quickly fills the space with its deep rumble, but in contrast Gustafsson is a discreet player, sitting back and appearing to contemplate what to do in response to the extended, foghorn-like honks that Stetson drags out of his horn. When the Swede does ride in, it’s with a trilling counter-drone on his tenor that quickly forces Stetson to stretch out further before splintering into a typically unkempt solo that leaves the Canadian somewhat grasping at air.
In many ways, this 2-minute intro captures the album in miniature. There’s a sense that both players want to make the most of this collaboration, so their pace is occasionally tentative, even cagey, but their natural instincts to go for force quickly take precedence, at times to the detriment of any sense of melody or balance. The best moment of the entire album comes about a third of the way into the first segment, when Gustafsson retreats into a series of the faintest of repeated notes that contrast superbly with Stetson’s equally muted bass foundation. Occasionally, one of them darts forward for a brief surge of noise before retreating like a scared hyena to lie in wait again. It’s a passage that bubbles with pleasant tension, very much like the sort of tactic (the word feels apt) employed by electro-acoustic improvisers. Equally notable later on, although in a more upbeat manner, is when the two start trading percussive punctuations on their key-cups, resulting in a cheerful exchange of pizzicatos where any “real” notes are pleasant interruptions rather than intrusions, the fun being in the unpredictability.
But for the most part, the duo can’t seem to contain their desire to trade blows, as fast, heavy and rambunctious as you would expect. Gustafsson has the more varied tone, whilst Stetson is more restrained. Perhaps he was less indifferent to how their interactions should pan out, for better or worse. In full flight, they deliver some heady barrages of notes, but, for the most part, what ensues is a form on nondescript chaos. Recording an entire album with just one or more saxes is a tricky move, and neither Gustafsson nor Stetson has the discipline to equal, say, Anthony Braxton, who managed on For Alto to reach heights that these two can’t approach, even in tandem.
It is a rather dispiriting side-effect of the evolution of modern music that the saxophonist icon, such as a Parker or a Coltrane, no longer really exists like their parallels on the electric guitar or piano, and, in their own ways, Colin Stetson and Mats Gustafsson are among the closest we now have. So it’s nice that they’ve crossed oceans to deliver Stones. But, as is often the case, the idea of this partnership ends up being better than the result. -  Joseph Burnett

There are a number of good reasons why saxophone duos are rare. Saxophones, even in their incarnations as basses, are typically lead instruments. Skilled players already have a huge tonal range; couple it with Ayler-ian overblowing and other extended techniques and the saxophone emerges as an ideal wind instrument for the soloist. But more crucial to this scarcity is the position that the sax’s bright timbres occupy in a mix. The sax fills space. Its sound is almost physical. Therefore, attending to the spatiality of a piece becomes crucial for both players in a duo, or else they risk pure cacophony. Not that there aren’t a number of excellent free-jazz sax cacophonies out there (John Coltrane’s incredible Ascension comes to mind), but the duo format must control the chaos, because each player only has so much endurance.

Jazz has a way of throwing preconceptions out the window just to see what happens. Stones is a live recording of US-born/Canada-based saxophonist Colin Stetson and Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson from the Vancouver Jazz Festival, where the duo headed on stage for an improvised set without ever having played together prior to the experience. The recording captures the two saxophonists in a state of total awareness of the unique improvisational situation they’ve entered. It’s as raw as it gets, but the attention that each musician pays to the movement of the other makes each piece tick and accounts for the wide variety of moods and structures on this short recording.
It’s precisely the spatial aspects of Stones that are most striking. When both Stetson’s bass sax and Gustafsson’s baritone attack simultaneously, it forces the listener’s ear to compensate for the auditory overload by shifting one voice onto an oblique plane. The two sounds seem to jump over one another and jockey for position in the stereo field, never quite settling into position. But neither player pushes the cacophony too far; there is just enough sound happening at once that it is intelligible and separable, which allows the listener to discern one instrument from another. After a burst of power, the duo moves forth into new structures, including reductive, almost minimal passages. The silence on Stones marks the other end of the spatial range. Just because saxophones excel at maximalist bursts of sonic energy doesn’t mean that they can’t be quiet or nuanced. It’s when the two musicians both arrive at the lower end of the dynamic range that the pair’s mutual awareness becomes clearest. Control is the element of improvisation that transfigures it from chaos to art, and when the duo explore minimal structures that emerge out of silence, we witness them exerting the most pressure on the piece. Parts of Stones even witness the sax in a percussive capacity, with the duo at times popping the finger pads as a rhythmic basis.
Stones lacks any organization except for what emerges from Stetson and Gustafsson’s sensitivity to the vector of each movement. It’s fluid, and within that fluidity, some discord occasionally enters. But the nature of the recording makes discord a certainty; what makes it impressive is how often the duo achieves synchronicity on an inaugural session. Stones documents those fleeting events. Like a rock, it’s a physical manifestation of a process in time. Its shape took this form because that is simply how they made it. The recording captures the irrecoverable magic of a first meeting and encapsulates it. With its singular, unrepeatable circumstances, we can say little more than that Stoneshappened. 

Transmission Trio

Tiny Beast (2003) streaming

Colin Stetson: Saxophones, Clarinet 
Eric Perney: Bass 
Andrew Kitchen: Drums

Nema komentara:

Objavi komentar