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Sax machine Colin Stetson has been turning ever more heads of late with his innovative and unique playing style, and finally this week we have the third in his ‘New History Warfare’ trilogy available for your consumption, hot on the heels of his excellent collaboration with modern sax legend Mats Gustafsson.
Those already familiar with the man’s work will already know to expect a tour de force of circular breathing sax drones, clicking valves, mechanically repetitive melodic shapes and a dizzying array of layered tones and melodies which it’s stunning to learn have all been recorded live in a single take, with the overall soothing effect of the constant flurries of notes created through circular breathing bearing comparison to Lubomyr Melnyk’s continuous piano technique. The only overdubs here are some subtle and unobtrusive vocal contributions from Justin “Bon Iver” Vernon, but these are very tastefully done and the focus is always on the wildly droning sax.
Despite an album of saxophone drones not sounding all that appealing, Stetson has an incredible technique and even our notorious saxophobe Phil thinks this is good. It’s such an otherworldly sound that he makes - at the opening of ‘In Mirrors’ it sounds almost like an analogue synth, while elsewhere there’s everything from smooth droning, percussively clacking valves, hectic arpeggiating and visceral honking which somehow manages to not only be accessible but incredibly emotionally expressive; sometimes playful and carefree, other times intense and mournful. The interplay between the physicality of the nimble-fingered valve work and roaring, honking, breathy constancy of the wall of sound is a wonder to hear and several listens in I’m nowhere close to tiring of this. The finest album of the trilogy so far, in my opinion.
YOUR RECENTLY VIEWED ITEMS
- New History Warfare Vol. 3 : To See More Light by Colin Stetson
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