Colin Stetson “All this I do for glory”
“All this I do for glory” is a reasoning and exploration of the machinations of ambition and legacy, an examination of the concepts of afterlife, and the first half of a doomed love story in the model of the greek tragedies. As a narrative, it exists temporally somewhere between 2015’s “Never were the way she was” (with Sarah Neufeld) and the 1st volume of the NHW Trilogy.
With this, his first solo outing since 2013’s “To See More Light”, Colin Stetson ventures into territory both familiar and strange. Here still, is the dogmatically stripped down approach to performance and capture (all songs recorded live with no overdubs or loops) but there is an immediacy to the album that belies a more invasive and thorough miking of the various instruments being utilized and a seeming influence drawn from the early nineties electronica of artists like Aphex Twin and Autechre, evident in the more pointed role played by the instruments' many percussive elements.
There are ancestries, motivic and timbral, woven through these six songs that plainly anchor them within the shared universe of his Trilogy, though the overall experience is one of extreme intimacy, the sounds and imagery more tangible and immersive than previous offerings. The brief and brutal “In the clinches” recalls (or presages) echoes of songs like “Judges”, though now feeling like one has fallen down the bell of Stetson’s ancient bass saxophone itself. “Spindrift”, crystalline and serene, calls to mind the ambient works of Aphex Twin, while “Between Water and Wind” with it’s “Immigrant Song” swagger, relentlessly carves it’s way into the bedrock here, paving the way with an increasing focus on the minute and the minimal, with a deepened sense of patience shared by most of the album’s six tracks.
Engineered and mixed by Stetson himself, this album represents a decidedly independent approach across the entire creative process and finds him at the top of his game, both as a composer and instrumentalist as well as a producer.
Colin Stetson was born and raised in Ann Arbor, spent a decade in San Francisco and Brooklyn honing his formidable talents as a horn player, eventually settling in Montreal in 2007. Over the years he has worked extensively live and in studio with a wide range of bands and musicians including Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, TV On The Radio, Feist, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Bill Laswell, Evan Parker, The Chemical Brothers, Animal Collective, Hamid Drake, LCD Soundsystem, The National, Angelique Kidjo, Fink, and David Gilmore. Meanwhile he has developed an utterly unique voice as a soloist, principally on saxophones and clarinets, his intense technical prowess matched by his exhilarating and emotionally gripping skills as a songwriter. Stetson’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).
In 2008 Aagoo records released Colin’s debut, the first in his New History Warfare album cycle. ‘New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges’ arrived via Constellation in Spring 2011. The album met with universal acclaim from critics across a spectrum of jazz and indie rock/pop cultural spheres: “pure revelation” according to All About Jazz, the album was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize, and landed on year-end lists at Pitchfork, Tiny Mix Tapes, SPIN and the Village Voice. His frequent appearances on stages at SXSW, All Tomorrow’s Parties, and countless stops on the international jazz festival circuit cemented his reputation as a versatile and virtuosic player while bringing his solo work to a broad international audience. April 2013 saw the release of ‘New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light’ via Constellation, completing the conceptual and narrative arc of the series and constituting a definitive realization of his unparalleled musicianship and stunning skill as a composer. It has been received with exemplary recognition and was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. April of 2015 saw the release of the first recording of Colin’s duo project with long-time collaborator Sarah Neufeld. ‘Never were the way she was’ charts an expansive sonic trajectory with a multiplicity of structures and voicings that belies the fundamental economy of two acoustic instruments combining in real time. The resulting musical chronicle powerfully establishes its own spatial and temporal horizon; Stetson and Neufeld offer up an impressively immersive integration of composition, performance, timbre and texture. ‘Never were the way she was’ is a sum quite definitively and thrillingly greater than its parts.
Most recently, in a departure from his cultivated solo aesthetic, came SORROW: a reimagining of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony; Stetson’s first major release as a band leader and the flagship album out on his record label, 52Hz (a collaboration with Kartel Music Group of the UK). 2017 will see the release of several new works, including an offering from EX EYE (w/Greg Fox, Shahzad Ismaily, and Toby Summerfield) and his latest solo album, “All This I Do For Glory”.