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New History Warfare, Vol. 1

Colin Stetson

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This needs to be said up front: Colin Stetson is an absolute master of the saxophone. He has formidable breath control and circular breathing technique, a great sense of dynamics, and extremely impressive control over multiphonics and timbral changes: he can basically do anything that can be done with a saxophone (and maybe some things that can't). Although there is just a touch of studio treatment on a couple tracks and sampled, spoken intros to a couple more, New History Warfare, Vol. 1 is essentially an album of solo saxophone performances with no overdubbing. But this is no platform for free blowing and empty showboating; these pieces are clearly through-composed. Whether the track is one minute long or eight, there is an easily discernible structure, clear logic, and a strong sense of forward momentum to each of these tunes. Stetson's ability to build separate musical lines on top of each other is nothing short of astonishing. It's something like Rahsaan Roland Kirk playing two different melodies against a drone, except Kirk did it on three horns and Stetson is doing it on one.

"And It Fought to Escape" is a perfect encapsulation of Stetson's style. It begins almost imperceptibly as a percussive pulse is established with the saxophone keys playing against a breathy background. He then adds bits of melody on top until he is having a conversation between different registers of the saxophone while somehow maintaining the pulse. The breath control and dynamics are amazing, as are the sounds he makes with his saxophone. Switching gears, "Groundswell" almost sounds like a flute/bass duet at times. On "Nobu Take," Stetson's clarinet sounds more like a keyboard, simultaneously evoking Eastern European folk music and electronica, while "Tiger Tiger Crane" begins with what sounds like beatboxing through the sax. But Stetson's musicality far outweighs any notion of gimmicks. The pieces are deeply focused and never overstay their welcome. Not only that, but the strong structures and internal logic of the pieces make them far more listenable than many so-called avant-garde recordings.

New History Warfare, Vol. 1 is a truly impressive, fully formed, and highly individual musical statement. It's amazing from a purely technical standpoint, but Stetson's compositions and ability to tell a musical story are what make this a great album. You haven't heard saxophone music quite like this. No one else could have written this music because no one plays quite like Colin Stetson. Truly impressive. Evan Parker fans, take note: this guy is someone to watch.


Geboren: Ann Arbor, MI

Genre: Alternatief

Jaren actief: '90s, '00s, '10s

Woodwind player Colin Stetson can play powerfully while circularly breathing for long periods, can draw multiphonics out of a sax with great skill, and can command an audience's attention with his focus and melodic improvisations. Stetson was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he became proficient on assorted saxophones, clarinet, and flute. He earned a degree in music from his hometown school the University of Michigan in 1997, studying with Roscoe Mitchell, Donald Sinta, and Christopher...
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New History Warfare, Vol. 1, Colin Stetson
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