Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld - Never Were The Way She Was

I can appreciate that that listening in to a record made by Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson is going to be a bit too austere for some tastes.



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Never Were The Way She Was is one for the senses. I'll tell you now; you need to immerse yourself in this record, as cocking half an ear to it whilst busying yourself with everyday chores is just not enough. You'll let the LP down, and more imporantly, you'll miss out; as this is a cracking recording, full of invention and bravura playing. The opener The Sun Roars Into View is a beautiful thing; hesitant and charming, and threatening to blossom with the help of a Nyman-esque melody line, it somehow sets the mood and opens up a space for the listener to step into. The attractive In the Vespers is in a similar vein; Stetson's mellifluous lines a perfect couterpoint to Neufeld's fencing.

There are some very effective meditations on here too; And Still They Move has a gloriously woozy quality to it, one where Neufeld seems to be bending time with her long drawn out notes. With The Dark Hug of Time balances enervating sax squeals and blurts against a magical backdrop of strings and over a plodding beat. It's superb. In the slower tracks (the aforementioned and the brilliant The Rest of Us) there is also a heavy-lidded quality that reminds me of some of Vini Reilly's more drawn out moments (such as Without Mercy or bits of The Guitar and Other Machines). But there's none of Reilly's bedroom yearning here; this is outdoors music; somehow robust and a bit sodden underfoot, regardless of all the arty poses.

I can appreciate that that listening in to a record made by Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson is going to be a bit too austere for some tastes. Add a black and white snap of a tree with no leaves on the cover and the two artists (two highly placed courtiers in alternative music's imperial palace) looking serious in a wood on the back can only reinforce that view. I can see that. But for once the cover gives away no secrets (save for an indication of the utter determination both artists show in chasing their resepectives Muses). This is a real grower and you should take your time to listen in.