I just got my mitts on the second album from bass saxophone extraordinaire, Colin StetsonNew History Warfare Vol. II: Judges, his sophomore slab, comes out on Constellation Records on February 22nd and is already in contention for my tops of 2011 (it probably would have made my top 10 of last year without much trouble). Stetson has been, for the past decade, the go-to for experimental and indie greats when they’re craving the scronkiest or sweetest sax sounds this side of Albert Ayler; Stetson’s wrap sheet is a collaborator’s wet dream: Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, David Byrne, and TV on the Radio, just to name a few.
New History Warfare Vol. II: Judges, draws heavily on numerous experimental influences: gleaning from Phillip Glass’ minimalism, the vibrant free jazz of Ayler, the moody ambient rolls and waves of artists like Tim Hecker or Stars of the Lid. It might seem like free-jazz and moody ambiance or minimalism might be diametrically opposed to one another, however, Stetson somehow reigns the whole thing in to give Judges a lively and inventive mood without feeling overly influenced or too all over the place.
I’ve got two doses of Stetson here: the first is the roiling, boiling title track. “Judges” is Stetson’s purest showcase cut on the album, highlighting his circular breathing–inhaling through the nose and “simultaneously” exhaling through the mouth, his rhythmic fingering on the keys, and his read tricks (that weird vocal noise). This is experimental saxophone 101, kids; dig it:

The second features one of the few guests on Judges: Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). Worden’s haunting alto puts a good dose of misery on the gospel-tinged “Lord, I just can’t keep from crying sometimes.” Stetson’s sax hums and moans like a haunted didgeridoo, a hellish, alienating din to match the desperation of Worden’s performance. It’s simple, but stunningly effective.

Stetson has a few North American dates next month so If you’re lucky enough to be in any of these three cities in February, I can’t think of many live acts I’d be more jealous of you seeing.

2/3 – The Stone – New York, NY
2/5 – Le Cercle – Quebec City , QC (Record release show w/ Tim Hecker!!!)
2/10 – La Sala Rossa – Montreal, QC (Record release show w/ Tim Hecker!!!)
2/17 – The New Musuem – New York, NY