Colin Stetson

Colin Stetson

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 "Among The Sef" where Vernon (singing a lyric written by Stetson) 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.

Justin Walter

Walters (who performed with NOMO, the notable Ann Arbor-based Afrobeat / funk / jazz / almost-anything outfit), had a very musical upbringing, attending Community High School where, at a young age, he was introduced to jazz and live performance. Entering his 20's, his main focus was jazz. "Fairly straight ahead jazz, at that. All day. All night. Seems like I grew up in the Del Rio and Bird of Paradise. Lots of great jazz!"

Then he met up with this band… An elastic, eclectic, ebullient band, called NOMO. (Watch: NOMO – Ann Arbor Summer Festival 2012–

NOMO was his collaborative gateway band – moving on to work with Saturday Looks Good To Me, Iron & Wine, and His Name Is Alive, weird and wonderful indie-punk-and-folk acts that would otherwise have never panged on the radar of just a "fairly straight ahead jazz" musician.

Walters work in NOMO was the beginning of his learning about "music that wasn't jazz," to put it mildly.

But back to that EVI. In Walter's words its "an analog synthesizer that sort of plays like a trumpet." You might have seen aliens playing it in the Tatooine Cantina band. "It's unique in many ways and I found that it was fairly unheard of…"

As Walter continued playing with all these interesting groups, he honed his own craft, working on lots of experimental/improvisational music on his own, eventually culling a fair number of bedroom recordings and releasing a proper EP (recorded in Chicago with NOMO's Erik Hall).

Walter worked with SLGTM's Fred Thomas to release the WALTER double cassette on his LifeLike tape-centric label. It was a great collaboration, a fine collection of music and a motivating experience overall for Walter. It was time, then, that he get out a proper full length "studio" recording. Hall came back into the picture, along with drummer Quin Kirchner, the result was Lullabies & Nightmares.

"It's what happened when I set out to make the most beautiful music I could make."

The current Brooklyn-resident is eager to return to his old stamping grounds. "(Stetson) was one of the people who inspired me to make a solo record," says Walter. "So, this is possibly the best pairing I could have hoped for. It's an honor."

Lullabies & Nightmares comes out May 27th via Kranky Records. In the meantime, though, you can hear Walter's works live, Friday, at the Blind Pig.

$13 adv / $15 door


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