Release Date: Apr 30, 2013
Record label: Constellation
Genre(s): Jazz, Pop/Rock, Jazz Instrument, Avant-Garde Jazz, Free Improvisation, Saxophone Jazz
Forming the final part in Stetson's New History Warfare trilogy, To See More Light is comparable, both stylistically and thematically, to its 2011 Polaris Music Prize-nominated predecessor. In a similar manner to Judges, it was recorded, for the most part, live in one take, employing the same clever mic placements, impressive circular breathing, simultaneous singing while playing, rhythmic valve-tapping and brooding atmosphere. The guest vocalist this time around is Justin Vernon, who Stetson has recently played with as a touring member of Bon Iver, a head-scratching marriage on paper that, to their credit, couldn't be a better fit in practice.
Colin Stetson has made a name for himself as an in-demand saxophone player for North American alternative acts, recording and touring with both Bon Iver and Arcade Fire. It would be remarkable were these credentials to bring Stetson’s extraordinary and uncompromising work as a solo artist to a wider audience. Too See More Light is the final installment in a trilogy of solo saxophone recordings that are stark, provocative and restless – technically impressive but also viscerally powerful and absorbing.
“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.
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.
Colin StetsonNew History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light[Constellation; 2013]By Joshua Pickard; May 2, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetBass saxophonist Colin Stetson’s latest release New History Warfare Vol 3: To See More Light is bound to be as thoroughly dissected and analyzed as any of his previous records. There is something inherently technical—though still relatable—about his music, and this can lead to critics emphasizing the precision over the emotion—the method over Stetson’s apparent musical fervor.
With a hyper-demanding solo technique, Montreal-based saxophonist Colin Stetson has plowed a unique path through the music landscape in the last five years. His music is heady but always rooted in the body. Stetson uses circular breathing to produce an endless stream of notes in mode of classical minimalism, music that lulls the brain into a sort of reverie.
Improviser and composer Colin Stetson's solo work is characterized by dense sheets of saxophone/woodwinds that present a similar approach as loop-based music while being recorded in single live takes with no overdubs. This unique and challenging discipline calls on elements of jazz, modern composition, and even aspects of repetition and textural drone found in certain branches of electronic music and noise. With New History Warfare, Vol.
Could there be a more reviled instrument in pop and rock than the saxophone? That most flatulent of all brass instruments, more likely to soil an arrangement than a trite key change, or inane melody…? Granted, the vocoder may have been responsible, in the past decade, for adding more layers of processed cheese to the already fattening pap listeners are fed, but it’s usually pretty easy to draw the line between hip and unhip by identifying the saxophonist in a band’s line-up. What’s unexpected about exploring classical minimalism, post-punk, no-wave, and the outer fringes of jazz is how much the saxophone proves capable of a sonic assault to rival electric guitars, if not surpass them, with a vast tonal range and sense of physicality that doesn’t depend on effects pedals and amps (which can, in turn, trick guitarists into clichés). Pushed to its limits, the saxophone is one of the few instruments that allows the player to produce natural distortion that provides the visceral thrill of almost-but-not-quite losing control.
1 of 2 2 of 2 COLIN STETSON plays the Great Hall May 19. See listing. Rating: NNNN Few avant-garde solo saxophone records will get as much attention as Colin Stetson's third instalment in his New History Warfare series. This is partly due to the critical praise and Polaris Music Prize shortlisting that Vol.
Review Summary: The light at the end of Colin Stetson's proverbial tunnelBefore we get going, let’s address the elephant in the room: Isn’t it funny that bass saxophonist Colin Stetson (read: an avant-garde bass saxophonist) would enlist Justin Vernon for vocal duties on his latest solo release? Vernon, after all, was the single candle that burned behind Bon Iver, Bon Iver-- known in some lands as the most unequivocally ambiguous album of 2011. Considering Stetson’s music has always thrived with charismatic and headstrong lead vocalists at its helm (see New History Warfare, Vol. 2 and its beautiful utilization of Shara Worden’s bluesy croons in “Lord I just can’t keep from crying sometimes”), Vernon being chosen for a similar task is initially mind-boggling.
The physical impossibility of the sounds made by hulking bass saxophonist Colin Stetson is generally the first thing you’ll hear about his music. He insists that his albums are performed in single takes – that is, no overdubs, loops, or any other similar trickery – yet there’s such a polyphonic richness to these recordings that it sounds, at times, like five people are present. Particularly amazing is his vein-popping circular breathing technique, which to me still seems as though it should be physically impossible.