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

Andy Battaglia

By Andy Battaglia

on 04.30.13 in Reviews
The frequent indie collaborator proves most formidable and impressive on his own

Avant-garde saxophonist Colin Stetson’s credits as a collaborator include a slew of indie friends — Arcade Fire, Feist, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and TV on the Radio among them — but he’s most formidable and impressive on his own, with just a metal horn and a pair of heaving lungs to help push air through its twisty, peculiar channels. Stetson’s expansive style finds fine form in “Hunted,” an unusual instrumental track that matches ghostly, wordless cries to a sax treatise in which Stetson taps on keys percussively while blowing out sounds as if summoning some strange prehistoric beast. “High Above a Grey Green Sea” follows in a comparatively subtle mode, abstracting the sax until it’s mostly a tool for texture and extrapolations on timbre and tone. Stetson is credited for playing alto, tenor and bass saxophones (the latter a burly monster of an instrument), but the presence of each, in all cases, conforms to the whole of his unique sound-world. Another habitué of that world is Justin Vernon from Bon Iver, who contributes vocals on four songs in a very Bon Iver-ian way (see, especially, “Who the Waves are Roaring For”). His nuanced presence is never unwelcome but it is also ultimately unnecessary — a testament to the powers that Stetson wields on his own.