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You can count on one finger the number of good uses of the saxophone in long and varied history of music. The coda to 'Will You' by Hazel O' Connor notwithstanding, the instrument that was invented by mistake has usually turned up on everything horrible in the world from free jazz skronk to Patrick Wolf's latest mess. In the 1970's even keen sax employer Bruce Springsteen saw sense and wiped the instrument from large swathes of his 'Darkness on the Edge of Town' album leaving sax blower Clarence Clemons to stand around like a spare part during subsequent live performances. No, the saxophone is generally the signifier of bad things. This makes it all the more remarkable that Colin Stetson has produced this thoroughly enjoyable experimental peach of an album using nothing but the joy of sax. The whole thing was recorded live in the studio with no overdubs or looping but the old sqwark machine must be heavily manipulated to produce these heavenly sounds. Rarely does it sound anything like sax, from the Philip Glass with a saxophone staccato jumpiness of 'Judges' and 'The Stars in his Head' to the haunting ambient interlude 'All the Days I've Missed you' Stetson goes all out to single handedly improve the reputation of the instrument. 'From No Part of Me Could I Summon A Voice' again recalls a Glass composition, a jittery chorus of sax honks like an explosion in the car horn factory. Laurie Anderson pops up to add spoken word in a manner that recalls Paddy Macaloon's excellent 'I Trawl the Megahertz opus' while saxes flap away in the background. This really is an excellent piece of work, Stetson achieving the impossible. As I (almost) often say to my girlfriend...more sax please.
8/10 John Bloor 20th April 2011
Now I’ve seen and heard a few interesting saxophonists such as Peter Brötzmann and Matana Roberts but nothing like Colin Stetson has ever passed my ears or made such an impression.
How to describe this music of his second album “New History Warfare Vol.2: Judges”? Unearthly and incredibly gripping, it swirls about me and my head, invading my senses, driving deep into my consciousness.
Stetson presents an entirely new take on this instrument, building up layers of cyclical sounds, he repeats phrases whilst the emphasis changes all the while from thumping keys to eerie mechanical tones, fraying reedy textures to massively sonorous and intensely pure sounds. I understand the sounds are extracted from a multiple microphone recording technique – it’s extremely powerful, ripping through me in a surprisingly emotional manner.
You wouldn’t believe that a saxophone could sound like this – and there’s only one way to find out and I highly recommend you do so.
YOUR RECENTLY VIEWED ITEMS
- New History Warfare Vol.2: Judges by Colin Stetson
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