Colin Stetson: New History Warfare, Vol.2: Judges

If all goes as planned, my review of Colin Stetson’s second solo album, New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges, will appear in our June issue, but I can’t wait that long to tell you about it. It’s too special to keep secret.

Stetson and co-producer, talented multi-instrumentalist, Shahzad Ismaily, employ over 20 microphones to capture the sound of Stetson’s saxophone, the sound of fingers on brass, the sound of so many breaths, the sound of the room, so that what is actually just one man with one brass instrument takes on the sound of so many synthesizers and drum machines and guitars and organs. More astonishing: All tracks were recorded live in single takes.

The album, it seems to me, is as much about sound as it is about music as it is about breath as it is about life, love, home, and communication. It is also about emotion. While Laurie Anderson’s spoken word performances play the role of the conscience, Shara Worden’s graceful voice, especially on “Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes,” plays the role of soul. Stetson, then, is the body. His mastery of circular breathing, slap tonguing, and multiphonics is invigorating and unsettling. Comparisons to Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp would not be out of place, but I keep coming back to Peter Brotzmann and Sonny Sharrock. Then again, Colin Stetson, even under more intense scrutiny, remains a singular force. His art manages to fuse jazz with metal, gospel and blues with hip-hop and electronica. For sure, Judges strikes me as a very special thing.

In this excellent video, taken from La Blogotheque, Stetson performs two tracks from Judges: “Red Horse (Judges II)” and “In Love and In Justice.”

See what I mean?

While not every music lover will enjoy the music, every audiophile should appreciate the sound. The album’s dynamic range is thrilling, its stereo imaging physical and unnerving. You’ll jump as your left speaker tosses clumps of earth over to your right speaker, as your walls heave in and out with the deepest, most guttural cries.

Vinyl is the way to go: Packaged in beautiful, recycled press with gorgeous, textured inserts, the 180gm record hides a copy of the album on CD, so you can’t go wrong. For more information on Colin Stetson’s New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges, visit Constellation Records.

MatthewSTL's picture

Hey Stephen,

I really like your post because it successfully uses words to describe Stetson's sound. I mumble and stammer and then just sit my friends down and make them listen to it...

This has to be the most compelling release I've heard so far this year. I have the vinyl also, which, given everything that's sent along with it, gives a touch of intimacy to some challenging music.

Stephen Mejias's picture
I mumble and stammer and then just sit my friends down and make them listen to it...

I like your strategy even better.

This has to be the most compelling release I've heard so far this year.

I think so, too.

Drtrey3's picture

So that is where Jimi has been hiding!

Mind blowing.


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