On New History Warfare Vol. 2, Colin Stetson perfected a style that took the otherworldly sounds of extended saxophone technique and used them to create largely tonal slices of minimalism that structurally and harmonically had more in common with the language of Philip Glass than Stetson’s extended saxophone forefathers Anthony Braxton and John Zorn. The album’s ability to take rigorous academic technique and render it accessible by imbuing it with strong melodic sensibilities and driving rhythms made it a pretty complete artistic statement, and as a result, Stetson was faced with two options in the album’s wake: (1) push the alteration of his saxophone sound even further by incorporating more electronics and even more unconventional playing styles, or (2) perfect his initial sounds and find a way to make them even more musical.
While I’d love to hear Stetson choose option number one and go even more bat-shit crazy on his instrument than he already has, the composer/performer has instead chosen option two, and it seems pretty alright too! Belgium station Radio Scorpio recently previewed four tracks off of Stetson’s New History Warfare Vol. 3, and while the new material follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, there’s a much clearer sense of harmonic and melodic movement in these tunes that outshines even the most accessible numbers on Vol. 2.
Of the tracks Radio Scorpio premiered, two feature Stetson’s bandmate bro Bon Iver on vocals and two feature solo Stetson shred. Of the Bon Iver tracks, “Who the Waves are Roaring For” is the real jam, with Stetson’s fuzzy through-the-saxophone singing mixing with Justin Vernon’s trademark falsetto in beautiful counterpoint. The solo Stetson tunes are familiar-sounding barn-burners that find the trademark sounds of Stetson’s previous recordings sounding beefier and catchier than ever before. Stream the audio courtesy of Belgium’s Radio Scorpio here:
New History Warfare Vol. 3 is out via Constellation Records on April 30.