Colin Stetson
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light


3.9
excellent

Review

by Jacob Royal STAFF
May 21st, 2013 | 23 replies | 5,411 views


Release Date: 04/30/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The light at the end of Colin Stetson's proverbial tunnel

Before we get going, let’s address the elephant in the room: Isn’t it funny that bass saxophonist Colin Stetson (read: an avant-garde bass saxophonist) would enlist Justin Vernon for vocal duties on his latest solo release? Vernon, after all, was the single candle that burned behind Bon Iver, Bon Iver-- known in some lands as the most unequivocally ambiguous album of 2011. Considering Stetson’s music has always thrived with charismatic and headstrong lead vocalists at its helm (see New History Warfare, Vol. 2 and its beautiful utilization of Shara Worden’s bluesy croons in “Lord I just can’t keep from crying sometimes”), Vernon being chosen for a similar task is initially mind-boggling. But the choice works because Colin Stetson utilizes Bon Iver’s vague phrasings as yet another medium, another vessel to which To See More Light can be accurately conveyed.

It’s hard to imagine Stetson's exact thoughts upon writing this album, but his songwriting capabilities at least provide hints. Pardon my use of words we’ve all seen too many times, but the album functions as the light at the end of New History Warfare’s proverbial tunnel. This gives the wrong impression, though, because the album simply isn’t that blatant-- no, To See More Light captures the precise moment where the light meets the darkness, the exact point in which it coalesces with dark to resolve into muted grey. In the concluding chapter of New History Warfare, Colin Stetson finally realizes his music can reach some sort of resolution, a catharsis of sorts if he wants it to. And clearly he does-- To See More Light only flirts with tension in its first half, only to eschew it for a sense of comfort in its concluding moments. It’s rejuvenating to experience such warm hues from Stetson; these moments gives the album's previous tension more significance.

Colin Stetson plays the role of backbone here, as he always has. Whether menacing or soothing, whether chaotic or meticulous, he provides the framework for the other elements to work within. Justin Vernon’s voice plays with Stetson’s blueprint, only taking the reins when the saxophone takes a step back. There’s always an active voice within To See More Light, which gives direction to the sometimes chaotic release. Don’t get me wrong, though-- this album emphasizes Colin Stetson and his musical explorations. During the saxophonist’s respites, though, Justin Vernon is there to take the reins. This give-and-take feel gives To See More Light an interactive flair, and with it, the realization that Stetson is great at finding reliable musical company to keep.

To See More Light doesn’t go about trying to reinvent the wheel, and as it shouldn’t-- the blueprint established through Stetson’s prior releases is diverse enough that more of the same is a good thing. The best moments here are actually the ones that hark back to other moments in Stetson’s career, such as the ferocious pace of true opener “Hunter.” The track could have easily been on New History Warfare II: Judges, because it's as fierce and urgent as a siren call. And in moments like this, it’s clear why Colin Stetson stands out from the avant-garde crowd: he’s as identifiable as he is inventive. In two albums, the man shatters our conceptions of music-- and in the finale of his trilogy, he glues the pieces back together and hands the end product back to us, thereby redefining the word ‘musician’ in a single gesture.



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user ratings (85)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Jonny Hunter CONTRIBUTOR (4)
Three volumes in and we're still not quite sure how he's even making these sounds in the first place...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Omaha
Staff Reviewer
May 20th 2013



9469 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

I meant to write this much earlier, but 1) Jonny Hunter did a fantastic job (a.k.a. said everything I originally wanted to say,) and 2) I've been having a bit of writer's block regarding this album. There's a lot to say about it, but I didn't want to create an essay on the topic.

Digging: Koan Sound - Dynasty

Calc
May 20th 2013



10846 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

another repeat feature?

must be good.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
May 20th 2013



9469 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Haha. Have you heard any of Colin Stetson's music, Calc?

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
May 21st 2013



3752 Comments


Actually Vernon and Stetson toured together during Vernon's Bon Iver tour, so they've done stuff together before, even if only live. I peed a little when I realized it was Stetson up on stage when I saw em.

Digging: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Days Of Abandon

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
May 21st 2013



9469 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Very true, Streetlight. And haha, I'm sure that would be a big surprise to someone not expecting to see Stetson on stage!

For clarification's sake, my first paragraph is more focused on how Vernon's voice doesn't seem like it would go with Stetson's solo work. Even though they've toured together, the thought caught me off-guard at first, seeing as this music is really dissonant at times, and goes against the more traditional structures Bon Iver utilizes.

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
May 21st 2013



5923 Comments


wtf justin vernon is on this?

meant to listen to this guy's 2011 album in nov/december 2011 but then i forgot

i will check this out tomorrow or wednesday though, magnifico review as usual

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
May 21st 2013



3752 Comments


Ah, fair enough. TBH, I recognized the giant sax before I recognized Stetson himself, and I was itching to be sure until they did the whole 'introduce the band' thing they do. Also, album is solid as hell.

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013



2675 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

(Boo! Not as good as the other review! Boo!)

Nah I'm kidding, I like it. Loving the way you wrote this.

Calc
May 21st 2013



10846 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I actually haven't but this seems right up my alley so I'ma check during work todizzle

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
May 21st 2013



9469 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

"(Boo! Not as good as the other review! Boo!)" (2) =]

And thanks guys! It's a great release, although I probably prefer its predecessor, Judges.

kitsch
May 21st 2013



5105 Comments


avant garde... pfffftfttft

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 21st 2013



14884 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

on what terms would you reject this as an "avant-garde" album, kitsch? haven't heard it but i'm interested

joshuatree
Emeritus
May 21st 2013



3743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

album rules, isn't as good as judges but still really good. i wouldn't call anything stetson does "chaotic" tho, also not sure why you only gave this a 3.9 too based off your review

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
May 21st 2013



9469 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Thanks for the comment, Joshua. I definitely see a couple of moments here as being "chaotic," at least because of the album's sometimes dissonant feel. I do think Judges fits that bill better, though.

And astute observation there, as I was thinking about that myself. I may add a couple lines as to why the album didnt impact me as much as Judges-- I tried to focus on the album's positives, because that was what my lasting impression was based off.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
May 23rd 2013



18603 Comments


Nice review man this sounds great

Digging: Somos - Temple of Plenty

LilLioness
May 23rd 2013



2428 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Wait, I thought you already reviewed this.

Jruined
June 7th 2013



1273 Comments


Not sure I like this. Vernon doesn't fit, and makes me want just toss it out the window and go back to History Pt 2.

I'll give it a few more listens though, as I assume that Vernon is on here for a reason, maybe it'll unfold. Stetson is awesome as usual.

DUIF
June 13th 2013



21 Comments


This album is gold.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 3rd 2013



14884 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

i think this would be better if it were less "song"-y

and i only like vernon on the first song

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 3rd 2013



9469 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

He sure doesn't change it up much here, except for Brute.



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