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colin stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
Chances are that even though you might not have heard of Colin Stetson, you have heard him play. The virtuoso horn player has lent his estimable skills to a plethora of projects; from Tom Waits to controversial Grammy winners The Arcade Fire, all of which has granted him a certain hallowed seat in music lore. ‘New History Warfare Vol. 2 : Judges’ is Stetson’s second solo jaunt, and is a blistering example of not only his incredible instrumental ability (most of the album was recorded in a single take, without overdubs) but also his compositional expertise. Indeed, parts of the album remind me of Steve Reich at his best, but Stetson does not mindlessly Xerox the past masters; his crumbling, distorted arpeggios sound at once totally singular and resolutely engaging. It is sometimes difficult to comprehend how one person managed to record this music, and there are moments on the record that fill up the sound-field like an entire band – Stetson’s percussive clicking, lightning-fast trills and superhuman endurance (Stetson famously utilises a painfully difficult circular breathing technique) gives the record the illusion of an ensemble. When vocals cautiously step into the frame; Laurie Anderson’s pointed spoken word and Shara Worden’s smoky blues-flecked croon, they serve as an anchor for Stetson’s expert drones to cling to. Worden’s voice evokes the very backbone of American music, and pitted against Stetson sounds richer in emotion than ever before. ‘New History Warfare Vol.2: Judges’ is a record which defies comparison, and while critics might like to dig up the same Ayler and Evan Parker references time and time again, in my mind Stetson has created something truly unique. A huge recommendation.