Available on 12” vinyl LP or CD from Constellation. Colin Stetson’s is renowned for his unique style with tenor and bass sax. Melding polyrhythmic blasts and clanks with prolonged and evolving drones as well as simultaneously vocalising through the mouthpiece. Joining forces with violinist Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire) is not new to them, having collaborated live many times over the years, but now it’s on record.
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“No overdubs” is the phrase to watch with Colin Stetson, an artist who intones on saxophone to create sounds vocal and percussive, melodic and destructive. The reason we claim to be so impressed with his tectonic shifts is because they’ve all been conjured in one take, the result something like a one-man opera on ‘Judges’ and a solitary glance at American nature on the Justin Vernon-upholstered ‘To See More Light’. On this collaboration with Arcade Fire’s incredibly proficient violinist Sarah Neufeld, though, the rawness does something else: it reminds us that existence itself comes in layers, and that the noises we hear in daily life interpolate.
Of course, Stetson and Neufeld are dramatists, so ‘Never The Way She Was’ isn’t so mundane; this record bounces with frantic polyrhythms, Neufeld’s violin cutting into Stetson’s sax like a pick into ice on “In The Vespers”, or wiring violently over Stetson’s drafty vocal hum on “The Sun Roars Into View”. Through an adherence to rhythm and emotive melody, Neufeld adds something accessible to Stetson’s music, as he responds to her playing with boisterous percussive sounds (as on the panoramic “The rest of us”). It’s as if she’s rendered a storyboard to his music, given it narrative properties that are less contextual and more part of the music itself. The greatest moment on “The Rest of Us” dangles over the edge of a sustained drumbeat before the duo use their instruments in a dance with death, Neufeld’s instrument rushing gorgeously through what sounds like a crawl space.
It’s hard to step out of this incredible myth of a record Stetson and Neufeld have made to offer an evaluative statement, but let’s just say this: it’s the most exciting work of their respective careers, a work that’s evocative for its immersive sounds rather than its dogged process. Could Constellation please just give me a second here with the good music?
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- Never Were The Way She Was by Colin Stetson And Sarah Neufeld
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