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

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

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Released: 04/28/2013

At the core, all musicians are artists. As an amalgamation, they generate quite varied musical outputs and are driven by different intentions but the result is fueled by urge to create. Some music, however, is best left classified under the larger umbrella of art – Colin Stetson fits that description precisely. There is little doubt you have not heard him before behind a myriad of popular artists (Tom Waits, TV on the Radio, Arcade Fire, Lou Reed, Bon Iver, etc.) but unless you’ve heard him play his bass saxophone solo, you haven’t really HEARD him. His latest full length, and last in a trilogy, New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light was released this past April and what a beast it is.

To go more in depth on this “art vs. music” debate… well… it’s best if you experience his art first. The first piece submitted into evidence: an episode from the on-going French blog La Blogothèque’s Take-Away Show series filmed inside Stetson’s residence.

Colin Stetson | Awake on Foreign Shores & Judges | A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

The music has a definite rhythm and melody and yet it is something wholly unique and ornate. There are identifiable beats and tones but constructed unlike a vast majority of the art titled music. When initially introduced to Colin’s music, what struck me most amazing is that he performs his recorded music in single takes; no overdubs (save for guest vocals) or backing players. The only ingredients added to the man and his instrument are several well-placed mics and a lot of gusto. The most staggering evidence of this amazing method of performance was on display during Stetson’s late 2011 EP Those Who Didn’t Run which included 2 ten minute pieces. In an effort to outdo his own feat, To See More Light‘s title track and centerpiece is a beguiling 15 minutes. This is just one of several boundaries broken on the album though.

If you move chronologically through his solo recording career, it may seem at this point that he might hit a road block with his avant garde style but, alas, he still finds new ground to break. While joined by Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon on several tracks, Colin also makes his vocal presence known more loudly than ever before as on the first single “High Above A Grey Green Sea.” The album truly pushes forward though when it pulls to its extremes. The beauty of “What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?” juxtaposed with the sinister “Brute;” the all-out sprint on alto sax of “Among the Sef (Righteous II)” contrasted with the trudging “This Bed of Shattered Bone.” Each track is built up perfectly keeping you enraptured and imprisoned to the last note. It isn’t ideal for the drive to the beach on a summer day or a crowded party amongst friends (unless you’re looking for some awkward glances at the stereo to get the conversation going) but its lure is undeniable. The sheer respect Colin commands with his weapon of choice and the innovative way in which he wields and presents it on New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is without a doubt outstanding and awe inspiring.

Matt Zimmerman

I have a bachelors in music enthusiasm with an emphasis on physical collection. If you'd like to know more about my major, see what I'm listening to at: http://www.last.fm/user/nametakenrox84

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