Posted on April 29th, 2013 (4:30 pm) by Michael Mangarella

Colin Stetson blows a wild wind throughout his latest, New History of Warfare, Volume 3: To See More Light. The woodwind virtuoso playing throughout, practically solo and virtually without looping or overdubs (as seems to have been the case throughout this trilogy), paints off of a bleak tundra landscape that sends the listener on an ethereal journey conjuring moods of both euphoria and hopelessness.

If as much had been written over the years about his incredible talent, particularly on the cumbersome bass saxophone as has been scribed of his circular breathing and diversity of side projects ranging from Tom Waits to LCD Soundgarden, TV on the Radio to Feist, Mr. Stetson might be, to most, more than just that guy holding up, “that big-ass sax.” His solo work speaks volumes over his session work with those many others. On New History of Warfare, he plows through eleven pieces of mood/mind altering tracks whose intermittent chills are only exceeded by Mr. Stetson’s heat.

The album gets off to an auspicious start with the short, but beautifully gospel tinged, “And In Truth,” a softly majestic piece that quickly morphs into the grinding industrial assault that is “Hunted.” The sounds conjure images of the type of pain not shared with others. Flowing in and out between cries and resignation, it is a haunting listen. “High Above A Grey Green Sea” takes a propelling journey into an abyss only Mr. Stetson knows the road map to. The alluring vocals of Bon Iver’s, Justin Vernon, take center stage on the beautiful and most accessible track on the album, “Who The Waves Are Roaring For,” all the while Mr. Stetson squeezes out droplets of notes like bread crumbs, leading the listener to a soft, yet sudden ending. The symphonic “To See More Light,” impresses in its ability to seemingly create a multitude of sounds out of one instrument. Strings, bass, and yes, I even heard a bagpipe tucked away in there, create a swirling menagerie of sounds more akin to a much grander chamber orchestra. “Part Of Me Apart From You,” brings these rewarding proceedings to a close with Mr. Stetson taking this vehicle on another ride, determined to plow forward until the wheels fall off.

It would be remiss not to mention the production efforts of Ben Frost, an innovative avant-garde stylist in his own right. After handling the sound mixing on History of Warfare, Volume 2, Mr. Frost seemed a likely candidate to bring the trilogy to a close.

Despite the often confused direction and the density of this project, there are a few things that are certain in their production. Colin Stetson is going to be around a long time. He will continue to compose music that both challenges and rewards the listener. What remains tantalizingly uncertain is the path he will take to get there.

Track List:
1. And In Truth
2. Hunted
3. High Above A Grey Green Sea
4. In Mirrors
5. Brute
6. Among The Sef
7. Who The Waves Are Roaring For
8. To See More Light
9. What Are They Doing In Heaven Tonight?
10. This Bed Of Shattered Bone
11. Part Of Me Apart From You

Colin, Stetson, warfare, montreal
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

78 / 100
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