Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld – Never Were the Way She Was

Album Review by John Nugent | 15 Apr 2015
Album title: Never Were the Way She Was
Artist: Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld
Label: Constellation
Release date: 27 April

Saxophonist Colin Stetson and violinist Sarah Neufeld, known as much for their prolific collaborations (see: Tom Waits, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire) as their solo enterprises, join forces here for the first time. And in doing so, both leave behind the stark, austere loneliness of previous solo works for something fleshier. Never Were The Way She Was is still minimalism in the extreme, with protracted periods of repeated motifs.

But the two instruments complement each other beautifully, arriving at a sum that vastly exceeds its parts. Neufeld’s violin offers an elegant counterpoint to the more jagged, aggressive baritones of Stetson’s saxophone. It’s an enigmatic and often foreboding record. And The Dark Hug Of Time, with its distant vocal wailing and foundation-wobbling ripples of bass, feels like a terrifying daydream; while the album’s title track is like an angry, pared down version of Arvo Pärt’s Fratres. Which is to say, it’s brilliant. [John Nugent]