Colin Stetson | New History Warfare Volume 2: Judges (Constellation)

Strange whirls, ominous reverberations and scathing screeches collide in what can only be described as an orchestral orgy.

 

Bass saxophonist Colin Stetson may not be a household name, but chances are you’ve heard his music. Stetson has lent his unique talents to a myriad of artists, including Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, My Brightest Diamond, Laurie Anderson, Jolie Holland, David Byrne, Feist and Bon Iver, both in the studio and on tour. He struck out on his own in 2008 with his debut solo album, New History Warfare Vol. 1, which features beautifully crafted compositions wrought with his signature arpeggios.

Stetson’s sophomore effort, out Feb. 22, includes notable collaborations with Jolie Holland, Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) and Laurie Anderson. Anderson weaves a stilted monologue into some of Stetson’s more despondent compositions.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this record is how it was recorded: in a single take, with no overdubs or loops. Stetson achieves an army of sound meticulously recorded for cacophonous and beautiful results. Efrim Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) carefully placed 24 microphones around the studio to capture different aspects of Stetson’s performance. The resulting sound is something I couldn’t dream came out of a reed or brass instrument. Strange whirls, ominous reverberations and scathing screeches collide in what can only be described as an orchestral orgy.

As a whole the album is hard to pin down, as it divides long, brooding songs with shorter, catchier interludes, all-the-while maintaining its dreary, post-apocalyptic sheen. Although it’s not for the faint of heart, New History Warfare Volume 2: Judges offers an undeniably fascinating blend of foreboding moodiness and quick-witted melodies. It’s sure to enthrall listeners who have enough patience.

Glen Elkins | A
 

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