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

I suppose my essential message here is that the record is superb. It’s exhausting for sure, and I found I had to approach it incrementally, taking bits at a time.

(Constellation Records) http://www.konkurrent.nl

What a record. It’s a bravura performance, recorded live, warts and all, Stetson’s virtuosity on his saxophones shown off to the fullest effect. After the choral invocation of And In Truth, Hunted lays down the template for the LP: strange, mellifluous and often ghostly sounds are coaxed out of the saxes, things float in and out of the mix, what slivers or suggestions of melody lines there are find themselves overplayed, warped, kicked about the room until all possibilities are expended. There’s also a hysterical edge to tracks like High Above A Grey Green Sea, Brute or (the magnificent and very taxing) To See More Light. Brute sounds like some sort of Young Gods demo too. Seriously.

These are pieces that toy about with the idea of being truly elemental, stripping away all superfluous ideas, but seem to end up sounding theatrical, bombastic, and also very brittle. The theatrical threads that run through the record can also be seen in the song titles’ words: Righteous, Roaring, Shattered, Hunted… Intense stuff. This excess of tension and emotion can mean you’re slightly out of puff midway through the record. Luckily there are interludes like In Mirrors or The Bed of Shattered Bone which allow a breathing space, or elegies like Among the Sef which display a different set of emotions. We also get a cracking gospel style track with What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?, too, totally unexpected and refreshing after the 15 minute  session that is To See More Light.

This is a damned hard record to write about, and to create a review round: especially if you don’t fall back on that classic way to pad out a review, (you know, stuff about Colin Stetson, where the LP was recorded), all that stuff that sometimes gets in the way of your essential message. I suppose my essential message here is that the record is superb. It’s exhausting for sure, and I found I had to approach it incrementally, taking bits at a time. I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s brilliant, and one of those LPs you’ll come back to again and again.