Tag Archives: New History Warfare

WL14 reviews: Colin Stetson @ Polish Combatants Hall – Feb. 15, 2014

Colin Stetson @ Polish Combatants Hall - Feb. 15, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

Colin Stetson @ Polish Combatants Hall – Feb. 15, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

By Tom Beedham
Colin Stetson is well accustomed to tests of sheer endurance. The epic, elephantine sounds he conjures out of his alto and bass saxophones are demanding of not just a seemingly bottomless lung capacity; his avant-garde approach to saxophone sound—he straps a mic to his jugular to amplify a cross-section of his circular breathing (an eerie, atmospheric sound normally so subtle it goes unheard), while additional contact microphones are fitted to his instruments’ bodies to build the percussive sounds of the valve fluctuations into his compositions—further requires a frenetic fingering technique and an aptitude for multi-tasking. It is not a task for those lacking in physical nor mental stamina. 

On Feb. 15, concertgoers at the Polish Combatants Hall were able to witness Stetson perform works from the two Polaris-shortlisted instalments of his New History Warfare trilogy, but with a further twist.

If blood rushing to his head and strategic hyperventilation wasn’t enough, the Wavelength fest upped the ante for Stetson in a way, coupling his literally breathtaking concert performances with another test of fortitude, blasting the overwhelmingly dizzying swirls of colour provided by General Chaos (a.k.a. Stephen Lindsey)—the fest’s go-to light projectionist for 14 years—so that they were cast all over his person and the surrounding stage for the entirety of his set. For any normal person, you’d think that would be a recipe for some kind of hypersensitive implosion, but Stetson was unfazed.

The musician churned out astonishing renditions of tracks like “Judges,” “To See More Light” and “Part Of Me Apart From You” that spread an infectious breathlessness, keeping the entirety of the hall’s audience at a stand still.

The audience hung on every note—making interruptive peeps only to cheer on the markedly technical moments of numbers like his set opening extended version of “Among the Sef”—until each song was closed, responding with uproariously jubilant furor when Stetson broke after each song to switch back and forth between sax rigs.

During those breaks, Stetson was offhand and casual with the audience, cracking wise about how about how it was nice to be back in the “so apologetic” Toronto. And while he didn’t acknowledge the General Chaos surrounding him, he was markedly thrown off when he noticed the live modular synth projection Hard Science had been shooting onto the adjacent wall, live streaming Stetson’s every move as though visualized by a colourfully scrambled cable channel.

“In what year did it become okay to put sax on a wall?!”

More photos:
Colin Stetson @ Polish Combatants Hall - Feb. 15, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Colin Stetson @ Polish Combatants Hall - Feb. 15, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Colin Stetson @ Polish Combatants Hall - Feb. 15, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Colin Stetson @ Polish Combatants Hall - Feb. 15, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Colin Stetson @ Polish Combatants Hall - Feb. 15, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Colin Stetson @ Polish Combatants Hall - Feb. 15, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Colin Stetson @ Polish Combatants Hall - Feb. 15, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Colin Stetson @ Polish Combatants Hall - Feb. 15, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

Colin Stetson setlist
“Among The Sef”
“Judges”
“A Dream Of Water”
“High Above A Grey Green Sea”
“Who The Waves Are Roaring For”
“To See More Light” (alto)
“Part Of Me Apart From You”

Originally published by Aesthetic Magazine.

Hillside reviews: Colin Stetson at Guelph Lake Island Stage – July 28, 2013

Colin Stetson performed at Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ont. July 18. Photo: Tom Beedham

Colin Stetson performed at Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ont. July 18. Photo: Tom Beedham

Having released the completion to his New History Warfare trilogy in April and subsequently earned a second shortlisting for the 2013 Polaris Prize, it came with no surprise that the Island Stage tent at Guelph Lake was packed for Colin Stetson’s Hillside performance.

Even if the festival horde that assembled around the stage at Hillside had done so on the grounds of base curiosity and the ambiguity of the invisible sounds provided by Stetson’s recordings failed to establish him as a force to be reckoned with in their minds beforehand, his live performance likely confirmed his status as a one-man orch-rock army.

With less than an hour of stage time at his disposal, Stetson delivered only a handful of his surreally affected sax drones at Hillside Festival, but he still managed to showcase three songs from each of the latter two volumes of the New History Warfare.

Opening with “Among the Sef,” the mournful alto-sax supported ode to octopi that didn’t have much luck coming on land, Stetson set the tone for the ironically elate crowd that would receive his afternoon performance.

He followed the song by picking up his century-old bass-sax and strapping on his throat mic for a medleyed version of the New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges title track, a rendition that also delivered portions of “Home” and “Fear Of The Unknown And The Blazing Sun.”

Next was another bass-sax rendered number, “High Above A Grey Green Sea,” introduced with just a brief mention of the infamous 52-hertz “Loneliest Whale In The World” cetacean whose song cannot be registered by other whales (he instructed the crowd to do their own research). Stetson has dedicated the song to the sea creature since a friend told him it called into mind the whispered stories of the elusive whale.

Perhaps as a nod to the closing of his trilogy’s narrative, Stetson closed the set with the title track from New Histroy Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light.

At the end of the day, Stetson also participated in an improvised collaborative workshop with Sonic Youth member Lee Ranaldo and his new band The Dust, as well as Little Scream, fellow Arcade Fire/Bell Orchestre bandmates Sarah Neufeld, Richard Reed Parry and Stefan Schneider  (read the review here).

Setlist:
“Among the Sef”
“Judges” (including “Home” and “Fear Of The Unknown And The Blazing Sun” medley)
“High Above A Grey Green Sea”
“To See More Light”

Related posts:
Hillside reviews: Supersonic (Lee Ranaldo and The Dust, Colin Stetson, Richard Reed Parry, Sarah Neufeld +guests) at Guelph Lake Island Stage – July 28, 2013