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

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As an ’80s baby who grew up listening to music made with synthesizers and guitars, I’m not really sure how and when this obsession began but if there is one noise that I love above all others it’s the sound of a saxophone. Be it Coltrane or Clemons, Pharoah or Fela, any record with a bit of sax skronk is sure to put a huge smile on my face, so it was pretty much a given that the new album from Montreal-based former session player and Arcade Fire/ Feist/ Tom Waits/ Bon Iver sideman Colin Stetson would really give me the horn. New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light features tons of the stuff; in fact, aside from a few vocal contributions from Bon Iver bandmate Justin Vernon, every sound here was created – without the aid of loops or samplers – by Stetson and his bass saxophone. Using techniques like “overblowing” and circular breathing, and an array of microphones strategically positioned about his instrument and person (including a collar-mounted throat mic), Stetson coaxes all manner of tones and timbres from his sax, unleashing a barrage of almost elemental noise that roars like a lion one moment and squeaks like a mouse the next, siphoning light-speed arpeggios into lengthy hypnotic drones with a prodigious finesse that belies the sheer physicality of such a performance. It is, literally, breathtaking. Of course, it also helps that – like previous volumes of Stetson’s solo output – To See More Light acts as a gateway drug into a variety of genres that we at Foam Hands are fascinated by but only occasionally dip a toe into. Jazz, gospel, modern classical and minimalist composition are all covered here, and whilst Vernon collaborations like “And In Truth” and “What Are They Doing In heaven Today” take on an almost hymnal quality, pieces such as “Hunted” and “Part Of Me Apart From You” boil like brimstone with an aggressive intensity that is pure punk in both attitude and execution; the fittingly-titled “Brute” even nods to black metal, with the Bon Iver singer providing guttural “cookie monster” growls and the sound of fingers flitting across keys and valves opening and closing mimicking blast-beats. For those with an inquisitive mind, it’s a veritable treasure trove of musical magic tricks to pick apart and work out; if you’re the type that prefers not to know the conjurer’s secrets, it’s a spectacular show of skill to sit back and marvel at. Either way, To See More Light is another amazing transmission from an immense talent at the very forefront of the avant-garde; listen to “Among The Sef” below.


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New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is out April 30 via Constellation Records, and is streaming in full over at NPR

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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