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Colin Stetson

"High Above A Grey Green Sea"

[Constellation; 2013]

By ; February 5, 2013 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

It would be very easy to label Colin Stetson’s music as “difficult” and not give it a second thought. With so much immediately engaging music out there, it can sometimes be easier to simply binge on bright, sugary pop or directly melodic indie rock than commit to something that requires a good deal of effort to interpret and understand. But ultimately, it’s this sustained effort, mixed with the listener’s perseverance, that makes these demanding songs and albums so immensely gratifying once everything locks into place and the artist’s intent becomes crystal clear. And for better or worse, Colin Stetson finds himself on the forefront of this ongoing debate regarding the viability of “difficult” music. On his last album, 2011’s magnificent New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, Stetson seemed determined to use his bass saxophone as the medium through which he channeled the spirits of jazz legends and mechanized monstrosities alike. His complicated and otherworldly use of circular breathing and his technical mastery of his instrument lent the music a dark and sinister sound, complete with creaks, groans, and inhuman rasps that came as a result of his using dozens of small microphones strapped to various points of his sax.

On his latest song “High Above A Grey Green Sea,” which is the first track from his upcoming album New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light, Stetson basically sets about soundtracking the scene from the film Metropolis where the great underground city transforms into a living, breathing representation of the demon Moloch. As whistles shrilly cry out and metal grinds on metal, the human workers are reduced to organic cogs in a great and terrible machine. “High Above A Grey Green Sea” is a terrifying mass of atonal notes and screeching tones, and Stetson seems ready to guide us along as he presents the human aspect of this music as perfunctory and unnecessary. Stetson once again ventures into the dark corners of our memories and comes away with a sense of some dark dystopian future, not unlike the chaotic scorched-earth landscapes of any number of films. But Metropolis still seems the most apt example of this impersonal human slog, and we are all along for the ride with our hands across our faces, barely managing to peek through clenched fingers.

New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is out April 30th via Constellation

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