Colin Stetson established himself as an intensely original solo composer and performer in 2011 with the release of the widely acclaimed New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges. Judges ended up on countless year-end lists and emphatically proved that Stetson's approach to solo saxophone transcends niche or genre; a unique and emotionally resonant instrumental music with influences as wide-ranging as jazz, metal, pop, soul, drone, industrial, minimalism, electro-acoustic and modern contemporary.
Remarkably, Stetson channels these manifold musical strains into a singularly identifiable and personal sound as a polyphonic soloist who doesn't rely on looping/layering or multi-track/overdubs technologies. Anyone who has seen Stetson in solo performance can attest to the stunning physicality of his circular-breathing technique and capacity to produce a seemingly impossible palate of multiple voicings simultaneously in real time – making his already beautiful and evocative compositions all the more enrapturing and viscerally human.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is the final installment in a trilogy of solo albums and is Stetson’s most ambitious song cycle to date, again recorded live in single takes with a wide array of microphone positions and again mixed by groundbreaking producer Ben Frost. Colin's membership in Bon Iver over the past two years has also led to vocal contributions from Justin Vernon for this record, who appears on four songs, with a diverse approach on each, and whose voice constitutes the only overdubbing on the album.
The record's 15-minute centerpiece, title track "To See More Light", is the longest piece Stetson has yet recorded and possibly the heaviest: a tour de force of swirling arpeggiation, continuous breathing, pumping valves and vocalizations through the reed of the horn that gives way to a tremendous, screaming, sea-sawing dirge through the song's final movement. This latter stretch conjures a sort of saxophonic sludge metal, and the album's heaviosity references other sub-genres of metal as well, most notably in the hardcore blast of "Brute" (abetted by Vernon's cookie monster barking) and the ambient grindcore throb of "Hunted". In other instances, the album is soulful and even hymnal, especially where Vernon's vocals play a lead role: opener "And In Truth" (featuring Vernon's most instantly recognisable contribution, of massed, multi-tracked harmonies), the cover of Washington Phillips' gospel tune "What Are They Doing In Heaven Today", and "Who The Waves Are Roaring For" where Vernon delivers one of the more tender and honest vocal performances we've heard from him in any context.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is the most cohesive and fully realized of Stetson's solo albums to date. It should reliably stand as the apotheosis of the New History Warfare trilogy, and certainly signals the full flourishing of Stetson's unique talents as both composer and performer, pressing his arsenal of virtuosic techniques into the service of vivid, impassioned and conceptually astute songcraft.
Thanks for listening.
01. And In Truth
03. High Above A Grey Green Sea
04. In Mirrors
06. Among The Sef (Righteous II)
07. Who The Waves Are Roaring For (Hunted II)
08. To See More Light
09. What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?
10. This Bed Of Shattered Bone
11. Part Of Me Apart From You
Running time: 00:51:39
2xLP is pressed on 180 gram virgin vinyl at Optimal (Germany) and comes in a gatefold jacket printed in 4-colour process with a matte UV varnish. Includes a large pull-out poster printed on 100lb Mohawk Antique Vellum Chalk paper. LPs are housed in black audiophile polylined dust sleeves. 2xLP includes a digital download coupon.
CD comes in a custom gatefold jacket printed on thick 24pt. board in 4-colour process with a matte UV varnish. Disc is housed in an additional dust sleeve printed on uncoated paper.
CREDITSColin Stetson: Alto, Tenor, and Bass Saxophones. All songs written, performed and recorded live without overdubs or loops by Colin Stetson.
Justin Vernon: Vocals on 1, 5, 7, 9. Vocals performed and recorded as overdubs. 1, 5, 7 written by Colin Stetson and Justin Vernon. 9 written by Washington Phillips.
Produced by Colin Stetson and Ben Frost. Recorded and engineered by Mark Lawson in Montreal at Sonovox, Le Petit Eglise, and OBORO. Additional recording by Vid Cousins at Monkeypuzzle Studios, and by Marcus Paquin. Justin Vernon recorded by Brian Joseph and BJ Burton at April Base, Fall Creek, WI.
Mixed by Ben Frost at Greenhouse Studios, Reykjavik, assisted by Jon Ottosen; Studio Manager Paul Evans.
Mastered by Mell Dettmer.
Album artwork and design by Tracy Maurice, with assistance from Matt Moroz (3D).