To say Colin Stetson has come into his own in 2011 would be an understatement. February 2011 saw the release of Colin's highly acclaimed solo album New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, broadly received as a sonic, conceptual, compositional and technical tour de force. Thanks to his trajectory as a session and guest player with a diverse crop of iconoclastic pop/rock practitioners – Tom Waits, Laurie Anderson, TV On The Radio, Arcade Fire – as well as his own tenure in bands like Sway Machinery and Bell Orchestre, Stetson was poised to bridge the gap between contemporary rock and more rarified currents of avant jazz. With the Judges album, he did just that, garnering high praise from the both the jazz and pop/rock worlds.
Colin's astounding physical engagement with his instruments (chiefly bass and alto saxophones) produces emotionally rich and polyphonic compositions that transcend expectations of what solo horn playing can sound like. Stetson is equally at home in the avant jazz tradition of players who have pushed the boundaries of the instrument through circular breathing, embouchure, etc. (i.e. Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson) and at the nexus of noise/drone/minimalist music that encompasses genres like dark metal, post-rock and contemporary electronics (i.e. Tim Hecker, Ben Frost – both of whom have mixed or remixed Stetson recordings).
Stetson's non-stop gigging at SXSW 2011 (on the NPR, Pitchfork and POP Montréal stages) led to hundreds of dropped jaws and just as many superlatives about the man's mind-altering, heart-rending music: how it defies both genre boundaries and the physical boundaries of what one person can sonically generate in live performance with a single acoustic instrument, without recourse to looping pedals or other effects.
Through the 30-odd solo performances delivered in the wake of the Judges release in spring 2011, Colin continued delving into new compositions and especially more long-form meditative explorations. Having premiered a couple of these new songs at a small art gallery show in Montreal in May 2011, we were duly blown away (along with everyone else in the room) and encouraged Colin to record them while still in their raw, stamina-testing glory. He agreed and brought in good friend (and now Grammy-winning engineer) Mark Lawson (Arcade Fire, Islands) to help capture the performances in Stetson's own basement rehearsal/studio space.
The two pieces on this new EP both clock in at 10 minutes and are documented in direct fashion, using a handful of mic positions and, as usual, no looping or overdubbing of any sort. They are brilliant single-take performances that showcase Stetson's love for minimalism, a subtle pop sensibility, and a mesmerising, mantric, time-warping technical ability.
Those Who Didn't Run is an amazing addition to what will no doubt be an expanding Colin Stetson discography in coming years; a wonderfully-realised portrait of Colin's solo playing before he embarks on a year's worth of touring as part of Bon Iver's live band.
1. Those who didn't run
2. The end of your suffering
Running time: 00:20:33
Those Who Didn't Run EP is available as a 10" pressed on heavyweight audiophile vinyl and comes in a screenprinted jacket by Repetitive Press in Montreal, featuring an illustration by Nadia Moss.
Recorded by Mark Lawson in single takes, no overdubs, loops or edits.
Mastered by Harris Newman.
Artwork by Nadia Moss.