A few years ago a video did the rounds online – a single camera wandered through a house following a deep, thudding, percussive sound, one that was hard to attribute to any instrument, or indeed, living thing. It eventually came into a room, where a brawny, built, hipster-looking dude was blowing furiously into a bass saxophone, rocking back and forth like a man possessed. As an introduction to Colin Stetson, it wasn’t a bad one.
Whether you’re into jazz or not, Stetson is someone who demands to be listened to. There’s an argument as to whether his work even counts as jazz – the giant horn he carries with him is the only real link to the genre, and there are as many similarities in his recordings with post-rock, metal or hip-hop producers as there are with your Coltranes.
There’s a pervading darkness over All This I Do for Glory that makes it a tricky listen at points. Like Wolves on the Fold begins frantically, descending into a screeching, howling cacophony by the end. Stetson’s ability to elicit weird, other-wordly noises from his instrument are often the most immediately impressive thing about his tunes – on Between Water and Wind, the top-line vibrates like a marimba – and in keeping with the title, there’s a swampy, science fiction-like quality to the whole thing. It’s a tune that sounds like the soundtrack to the point in a movie where someone is walking into a really horrible place and probably isn’t going to be OK.
Look – weird, arch, industrial solo saxophone isn’t for everyone. However, even if you’re not well-versed in the genres it feels like Stetson’s positioning himself in, the “how’s he doing that?!” quality of his musicianship is enough to keep you interested. Nobody plays the sax like Colin Stetson, so he’s always worth listening to.
Listen to: Between Water and Wind, Spindrift
Buy Colin Stetson - All This I Do For Glory on LP/CD from Norman Records