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22 December 2017

Colin
Stetson: All This I Do For Glory (52Hz)

Colin
Stetson has made a name for himself as a musical force of nature. His
weapon of choice is the unwieldy baritone saxophone, one of the
largest and deepest of the reeds that doesn’t typically get a lot of
love in music outside of the jazz and classical worlds. This is
Stetson’s fourth album of solo performance, and he sticks to his ethos
of working in a single live take, no overdubs or edits. I’ll be
perfectly honest: I didn’t believe this claim. That’s how impressive
Stetson’s technique and approach are, far greater than the sum of
their parts. He combines complex fingering and circular breathing
with contact mics on his instrument, often also screaming a harmony
into his reed while blowing.

His video for “Spindrift” is a
perfect introduction to the album and Stetson’s aesthetic and style,
and a sheer marvel to behold. For those already familiar with
Stetson’s previous recordings, Glory won’t necessarily surprise. But
there is a fairly particular evolution across his three New History
Warfare
albums and this latest effort, wherein he progressively
explores expanding on his own capabilities as a performer,
challenging himself to deliver more each time. Most noteworthy about
Glory is its emphasis on the physicality of the sax itself. While
some of his previous efforts began to include more overtly audible
fingering, with Glory he’s thoroughly miked his axe with what I
assume are contact mics, which add new layers of tough, pronounced
rhythm to his tautly wound playing.

All This I Do For Glory by Colin Stetson

The title track starts the album,
and his hugely amplified finger work has the effect of an unusual
drum track, while the sax is primarily playing an undulating, muted
bassline. Stetson’s voice comes through his reed like its own hard to
place instrument. (It took me a few listens to even quite realize what
I was hearing!) And there is indeed a certain amount of glory that
shines through in Stetson’s wailing, muted vocal, diffused by the
reediness of his sax, even on a track like “Between water and
wind,” whose strangely filtered sax patterns feel like synthesis
while curious reverb effects on his percussive sounds lend it a horsy
gallop that feels like it’s about to topple over at any moment.

The
most epic track is the closer, a thirteen-minute expansive piece
called “The lure of the mine.” It’s perhaps the track that
assimilates all of Stetson’s various techniques and tactics across
its sprawl, sort of the culmination of everything that’s preceded.
While it may be tempting to be won over by the sheer novelty of how
impressive Stetson is with his saxophone, Glory’s six tracks stand
tall as accomplished and ultimately cool on their own accord,
demanding repeat listening. Working wholly independently as the
writer, performer, and producer of this release, Stetson continues
pushing the limits of solo performance with this tour de force, one
of this year’s finest.

Buy it: Bandcamp

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