Colin Stetson
New History Warfare, Vol 2: Judges


5.0
classic

Review

by Andrew Kaster USER (24 Reviews)
March 7th, 2011 | 32 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The sound recorded here is not just the instrument and its performer, but the deafening cry that silence being torn apart makes.

Everything is a trend.

The pessimistic and unimaginative will have you believe that there is simply nowhere for music to go other than in retrogressive reevaluation. The best we can hope for nowadays are artful combinations and reinterpretations of past sounds and wait for the next trend to take hold. It’s simply not often we’re given an album that wades through the ether of the unknown and uninhibited. This is why when Collin Stetson puts his lips to the reed he proves that in the midst of gimmicky musical tricks and impersonations that the belief that there is nowhere new to go with music is a load of bull***.

“New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges” could be written off as some sort of avant-jazz concoction, though it would be downplaying the feats of this record. There are sounds collected here that are refreshingly original and exposed through Stetson's iconoclastic methodology. Imbued with such vivid spontaneity (no overdubs or multiple takes were employed), they seem to be only possible through the sheer power of abstract, unhinged thought. With twenty something microphones planted around Stetson as foliage, the sounds of violent clacking keys, the steady breath of Stetson, and the atonal residue of the instrument are recorded and mixed to different degrees. The result is something almost electronic in how otherworldly and humanly impossible it sounds. The gurgling tribal rhythms and oscillating tones of "Judges" and the samba beat of "Red Horse (Judges II)" provide the best examples of this seemingly sampled and manipulated sound. Both seem impossible to achieve without the aid of machinery, and yet the line between man and instrument are blurred ever so viciously.

Stetson follows a modal and rarefied philosophy on this album. Motifs with loose connections to minimalism and pop and thematic set pieces weave the terrible sadness that seems to haunt this album. With tracks such as "All the Days I've Missed You" and the uplifting "All the Colors Bleached to White" Stetson composes himself with a sort of militant dignity and spirituality. And through the few poetic readings on this album (courtesy of Laurie Anderson), the defeatist post-war keening is dramatically conveyed. "There are those who didn't run, there are those who couldn't take it" she calmly speaks in the midst of the manic "A Dream of Water", casting a glaze of genocidal horror over the album. Later, her contributions seem all the more important on the track "All the Colors Bleached to White". "And so we wave our shredded flags, not knowing what they mean", spoken amongst an angelic choir and digging out a trench of emotional depth in the center of the album. Anderson isn't the only quest vocalist though, as My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worde appears on the eerie cover, "Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes". Both the voices of Anderson and Worde are not merely superfluous though; they're essential in providing a much needed soul to balance out the strange amniotic coldness.

Above all though, the focus here still remains on Stetson. He literally breathes life into his instrument, personifying it as a daunting, wheezing, lumbering beast. Struggling through Spaciousness and claustrophobia he emits a tense atmosphere, sometimes beautiful, (such as on the string-like vibrato of "From No Part of Me Could I Summon a Voice") sometimes guttural, (best achieved on the Flying Lotus-esc clockwork of "Home" and "Fear of the Unknown and the Blazing Sun") yet always hypnotic and sobering. Stetson's personality becomes one in the same with the saxophone, as his expressiveness bleeds into every key and every tempo. While amazingly technical, he never loses sight on the emotive power that he holds, and as such, the album becomes meditative and wildly emotional all at once.

Despite all of the analysis, there is still nothing that fully explains just exactly how this album was crafted. The skill level seems almost fictionalized in its approach. “New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges” documents the inner workings of the mind with levers, pulleys, and weights being operated by some sort of flawless intuition; call it instinct. It's a daunting album with an oceanic brevity achieved through its endlessly echoing drone. The best way to approach it is to do as Stetson does, and become part of the mechanism; wheezing, breathing, spitting, groaning, and moaning in unison. By putting all of his ideas in the iron sights of his spur-of-the-moment reactions, Stetson discovers a new unalloyed and beating heart within the bowels of his instrument. The sound recorded here is not just the instrument and its performer, but the deafening cry that silence being torn apart makes.



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4.1
excellent
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Comments:Add a Comment 
SloppyMilkshake
March 7th 2011


981 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Seriously, this is the best thing I've heard so far this year. Fucking incredible stuff. Here's hoping this review stays on the front page a bit longer than my last one, haha. People need to hear this thing.

Tyrael
March 7th 2011


20901 Comments


Very interesting, I will check this out. Nice review Andrew.

DoubtGin
March 7th 2011


6752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is incredible. Favourite song is Red Horse (Judges ll) so far.

close to a 4.5



SloppyMilkshake
March 7th 2011


981 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That, and the interlude "All the Colors Bleached to White" are my favorites. It's only like thirty seconds, but it's so powerful.

For some reason I feel like this is the jazz equivalent to James Blake's s/t. A few different motifs played with a style in an unorthodox manner. I don't know, I just get the same feelings. Except I like this a lot more.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
March 7th 2011


10614 Comments


Sounds cool.

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

Lions
March 7th 2011


1015 Comments


i'm sold. good review.

SloppyMilkshake
March 7th 2011


981 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I should also add that this guy is a touring member of Arcade Fire, opened for GSY!BE a few times on their current tour, and has worked in studio with Tom Waits, The National, Bon Iver, Feist, and LCD Soundsystem.

lancebramsay
March 7th 2011


1585 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Warning: This album is not for everyone.

Great review. Pos

Yotimi
March 7th 2011


6523 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Listened to a couple tracks and they were great. I need this.

couldwinarabbit
March 7th 2011


6996 Comments


^that means I need to get this.

SloppyMilkshake
March 8th 2011


981 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Please do. This thing needs more exposure.

I WILL PITCHFORK THE HELL OUT OF THIS THING I SWEAR

DinosaurJones
March 19th 2011


491 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I saw him last week when I went to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor. He was their opening act, and I had never heard of him before.

He blew EVERYTHING I KNOW about saxophone playing out of the water. I love ska, I love jazz, I love the saxophone.

But this guy blew my mind. His saxophone playing is insane.

SloppyMilkshake
March 19th 2011


981 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah, I keep hearing he's still touring with GSY!BE, which makes me even more excited for when I see them in a week.

But yeah dude, spread the word of this thing. It's excellent.

plane
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2011


6094 Comments


Wonderful review for a great album. Still don't know how much I enjoy it, though. "Home" and "Fear Of The Unknown And The Blazing Sun" are my current favorites.

FourSquare20
May 3rd 2011


320 Comments


Listened to this album for the first time. Not really sure what to make of it.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2011


15052 Comments


i like this, i think. not sure how much.

FourSquare20
May 4th 2011


320 Comments


Regardless, I respect this guy a lot. He's obviously very skilled.

luschlotz
June 12th 2011


993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

If you havent listened to the opener with a ridicoulous volume on speakers, go do it now. its only 1:30 long. . .

luschlotz
August 13th 2011


993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I finnally 4.5 this, and Its still very hard to believe its only 1 guy with his sax

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2011


18728 Comments


This is the sonic argument as to why the saxophone is the best instrument.

Digging: Monolake - Hong Kong



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