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Saxophonics
February 1, 2012 7:13 PM   Subscribe

Saxophonist Colin Stetson performs a stunning live version of his song "Judges", then shows us how it's done.
posted by rollick (48 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you haven't bought this album for yourself and someone you like or love, please reconsider.
posted by lslelel at 7:26 PM on February 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


At moments, it's like, when the hell did Evan Parker start doing Pixies covers?
posted by idiopath at 7:28 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this guy is amazing.
posted by saul wright at 7:28 PM on February 1, 2012


I know I'm going to come off as a mouldy fig, but I would like a serious explanation of why that wasn't just truly prodigious technique wasted on a truly annoying bit of repetitive sonic torture.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:30 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Damn!...He has got some chops!
this guy could circular breath
a cyclone.
posted by quazichimp at 7:31 PM on February 1, 2012


Oh, wow. I remember waking up to this amazing sound a few months ago, but I didn't catch the performer's name. Thanks!
posted by maudlin at 7:38 PM on February 1, 2012


Absoutely unreal. After the post about Die Antwood's ultra-lame "crapic" (a newly minted word that denotes the output of all too many contemporary pop musician poseurs) today, this made my day! Great post!
posted by Vibrissae at 7:43 PM on February 1, 2012


Quite wow-inspiring! Thanks for bringing that to our attention.
posted by ashbury at 7:44 PM on February 1, 2012


I know I'm going to come off as a mouldy fig, but I would like a serious explanation of why that wasn't just truly prodigious technique wasted on a truly annoying bit of repetitive sonic torture.

That annoying bit of "repetitive sonic torture" has precedent in literally all forms of music, and remains today as an integral part of many, many forms of classical and ethnic musics - even some pop (e.g. looping)
posted by Vibrissae at 7:46 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


This interview includes a bit of insight into the concepts behind the album, the rationale for his usual one-take approach, and an extra track via Soundcloud. This NPR page looks to be full of rich links, too, including a couple of concerts.
posted by maudlin at 7:50 PM on February 1, 2012


@Greg_Ace: This may come as a surprise, but diatonic melodies aren't the only component of music.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 7:58 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend does that "percussive sound" (flapping his pads shut) with his tenor all the time as a reflexive tic. Drives me fuckin' nuts. Glad to see it put to some good use.
posted by Camofrog at 7:59 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


God, his latest album is an Evan Parker-esque one-man Einstein on the Beach. So much fun.
posted by hototogisu at 8:02 PM on February 1, 2012


Thanks for this post, and this awesome video. I bought Colin's latest record after finding out about him by way of the post dobbs made about him last year, and I guess that post counts as a "previously." Actually, I think I liked those videos even better than this one.
posted by koeselitz at 8:06 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Appearing live soon: http://empac.rpi.edu/events/2012/spring/stetson/
posted by Area Control at 8:08 PM on February 1, 2012


Thanks for the additional links maudlin and koeselitz! I saw this video linked on someone's "best of the year" list and was knocked out, but didn't know too much about him otherwise.
posted by rollick at 8:17 PM on February 1, 2012


I like the music, but I'm just as impressed with the physical endurance required to hold up that monster of a horn and pump your lungs into it for ten minutes straight.
posted by bardic at 8:22 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


That got me. If I were to get one of his albums, which one should it be?
posted by mapinduzi at 8:28 PM on February 1, 2012


To clarify: No, it doesn't come as a surprise and I'm well aware of the uses of repetition and non-diatonic elements in music. I'm also aware that Mefites often crucify anyone who doesn't share their taste in music in threads like this, which is why I admitted to mouldy fig status up front. But I'm forging ahead anyway and explaining that I'm making an honest attempt to at least understand if not share the appeal of this; and I'm asking, completely without snark or hater-ness, what the appeal is for those who do like things like this that strike at least some people as...well, as I said before, "annoying" - I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling that way even it if isn't a hip way to put it.

Memail me instead if you think this is a thread derail....
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:29 PM on February 1, 2012


I like the music, but I'm just as impressed with the physical endurance required to hold up that monster of a horn and pump your lungs into it for ten minutes straight.

I've seen this guy live a couple of times, and he seriously looks like he's going to keel and die over by the end. His blood pressure must be through the roof when he's playing, his veins start bulging way out of his head.
posted by !Jim at 8:34 PM on February 1, 2012


I really liked the music but it looked like his head was about to explode.
I know I'm going to come off as a mouldy fig, but I would like a serious explanation of why that wasn't just truly prodigious technique wasted on a truly annoying bit of repetitive sonic torture.
Huh. I thought the exact opposite. It sounded really nice but I'm not quite sure why you wouldn't just, I don't know, hook up an air pump rather then actually breathing through it.
posted by delmoi at 8:40 PM on February 1, 2012


I'm with Greg_Ace ... sort of.
I've long been a fan of NOISE in my music and made a concerted effort last year to get into Mr. Stetson's stuff ... but I can't help but feel it's no more than the sum of its parts -- prodigious technique, great big sax-like thing, looping ...

I realize I'm comparing oranges to raspberries here but something like this Apparat Band cut is far more interesting to me in terms of infinitely textured sonic exploration ... and there's even a song at the heart of it.
posted by philip-random at 8:42 PM on February 1, 2012


Nice, thanks for posting.
posted by carter at 8:43 PM on February 1, 2012


But I'm forging ahead anyway and explaining that I'm making an honest attempt to at least understand if not share the appeal of this;
Because... it sounds nice? I mean, I've met people who don't like chocolate. How would you answer your own question if you substituted 'chocolate' for 'this music'?
posted by delmoi at 8:43 PM on February 1, 2012


If I were to get one of his albums, which one should it be?

This one.

The same label put out this stunning release last year as well.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:45 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Greg_Ace, it's not something I can articulate easily. I know that there are certain kinds of musical elements -- arpeggios (hi, Philip Glass!), highlife guitar, certain key changes -- that appeal to me immediately and permanently. And some things that appeal to many people, like women who sing soprano, drive me away, leave me indifferent, or block me from completely embracing women whose personas and musical talent impress the fuck out of me. (Sorry, Dolly. You are beyond awesome in so many ways, but I prefer you slowed down).

I can hear strain and dissonance in Stetson's work, along with many elements that simply thrill me. I know I had to turn it down because my neighbours would probably hate it. But it's that bit of ugliness along with the transcendent in Stetson's work that really, really hooks me.
posted by maudlin at 8:46 PM on February 1, 2012


To clarify: No, it doesn't come as a surprise and I'm well aware of the uses of repetition and non-diatonic elements in music. I'm also aware that Mefites often crucify anyone who doesn't share their taste in music in threads like this, which is why I admitted to mouldy fig status up front. But I'm forging ahead anyway and explaining that I'm making an honest attempt to at least understand if not share the appeal of this; and I'm asking, completely without snark or hater-ness, what the appeal is for those who do like things like this that strike at least some people as...well, as I said before, "annoying" - I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling that way even it if isn't a hip way to put it.
I think if we're all nice to each other [looks around the room expectingly] we can keep this from getting into a "your-favorite-music-sucks" style derail.

This post made me put the album on, so maybe I can try to explain what this does for me. To me, this song starts off with kind of a jazz-y, but urgently-moving bass-line, and somewhat unique in that it's a little rough around the edges (i.e., the notes are kind of "round" rather than crisply ending when they should.) The percussive sound of the keys emphasizes the urgency (tap-taptap, tap-taptap, tap-taptap…), like someone is desperately trying to tell you something. Then, of course the screamy- vocal part actually pulls it together and starts crying out until it breaks down, and another voice that's kind of sad or mournful comes in. After that, it breaks down, and the original voice is back, but this time slower and more determined-sounding.

In short: I like it because appeals to my emotions, sounds pleasing (it subverts musical conventions, but those conventions are still there), and it's damn catchy.
posted by !Jim at 8:46 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, I forgot the punchline to my "In short:". The punchline is: "Just like the rest of the music I listen to."
posted by !Jim at 8:48 PM on February 1, 2012


I play (and even own) a baritone sax, which is maybe - 2/3rds the size of that thing? And it's like driving a truck. A truck that is strapped to your back (or neck, if you're foolish enough to use a neck-strap). Holy hell, I'm impressed with him for being able to pick it up, much less make music with it.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:51 PM on February 1, 2012


I know I'm going to come off as a mouldy fig, but I would like a serious explanation of why that wasn't just truly prodigious technique wasted on a truly annoying bit of repetitive sonic torture.

I hear what you're saying - sometimes I just don't get what the big deal is about a so-called great book, movie or art.

Repetition and drone in music are definitely something you either like or you don't. Or you have to be in the right frame of mind for it. The most obvious proponents for this style are Steve Reich and Philip Glass - both who have bored me to tears one week and on another week made my jaw drop. I came across Koyaanisqatsi completely by accident in my teens - a movie with fast-motion scenes featuring nature and civilization, both on their own and together - set to Philip Glass's repetitive music. The movie and music got into my brain and never left. Check it out, you might have a similar experience.

This kind of music is probably too extreme for most people, myself included, but drone and minimalism are everywhere in rock music and it's offshoots. Pink Floyd's On the Run jumps to mind instantly, as does The Normal's Warm Leatherette. How about something top 40? Devo's Whip It - aside from the vocals the song has the same music for the first 48 seconds and doesn't change much after that.

There's a number of rock genre's dedicated to repetition: I would say most forms of electronic music ie trance, drone, some ambient, trip hop. From a recent thread, check out Massive Attack's Karmacoma.

If it weren't for Kraftwerk and their explorations there would be a ton of music that wouldn't have been created. Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, New Order, just to name a few.
posted by ashbury at 8:52 PM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I saw this the other day, posted by someone in my G+ stream, kind of similar, but done with a computer. (specifically this thing)
posted by delmoi at 8:53 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, I've heard this song before, but never understood the technique involved; I somehow like it even more as a result.

I thought the best compliment you could pay a musician is to say they make it look easy; I think he deserves an even higher compliment in that he made it look possible.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:10 PM on February 1, 2012


So that sound that is sort of like a brush on a snare drum is actually being produced by the saxophone? That's wild.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:29 PM on February 1, 2012


Wicked.
posted by parki at 9:40 PM on February 1, 2012


That was awesome, haunting, and powerful. Thanks for that!
posted by mosk at 9:55 PM on February 1, 2012


I'm also aware that Mefites often crucify anyone who doesn't share their taste in music in threads like this

Not referring to music people like as "annoying sonic torture" is a good way to avoid being crucified by them. You don't have to like what others like, but there are more constructive, participatory ways to have a discussion. I find asking a question works out better for everyone, rather than demanding an explanation prior to a put-down.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:43 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Funny, that - I seem to have gotten some pretty good answers in this thread....
(And thanks for those, by the way.)
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:46 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Colin Stetson's album was the first album in several years to actually grab my interest, hold it, and not make me say, "Yeah, that sounds like [insert band that's at least twenty years old] only not as good".

Great stuff.
posted by Decani at 10:51 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm listening to New History Warfare, Vol 1 right now, he's the one who's playing, and I feel short of breath. "Groundswell" sounds like a performance from a nearby universe where a single instrument was invented in the place where we have three. There's something amazing going on here.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:12 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh and referring to why people like this kind of music. I was thinking that you could probably a drum track and some vocals from Ke$ha and sell a million copies. I was trying to think of a pop song that sounded like it. and I just came across this one Eyes Wide Open. The backing track sounds a lot like the sounds this guy was making. He's like one of the most popular pop singers in Australia now.

Other then the drums, it's a similar kind of tone. At least it reminded me of it.
posted by delmoi at 12:26 PM on February 2, 2012


Fucking HOLYSHITBALLS incredible!

I'm a pretty decent saxophonist - but I can come close to that voice-ing shit. Just amazing.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:52 PM on February 2, 2012


Great post. I've been listening to New History Warfare ever since it was posted here last year, in fact I was listening to it just last night. The comparisons drawn above with Philip Glass et al. are spot on. There's also a strong 'post-rock' influence (no coincidence I'm sure, considering the other bands on his label). But his music is unlike anything I've heard before: it's almost machine-like, industrial, the sound of some enormous metal mass clunking across a ruined landscape. I love it.
posted by Acey at 1:09 PM on February 2, 2012


Here's another pop song with a similar kind of sound in the background.
posted by delmoi at 1:15 PM on February 2, 2012


I meant I can't come close to it. Not by a long shot. I'm listening to his other stuff now on bandcamp. I'm really glad this post introduced me to this guy (though apparently I've been unknowingly hearing him with Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, et al).
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:34 PM on February 2, 2012


delmoi: "The backing track sounds a lot like the sounds this guy was making."

counter proposal
posted by idiopath at 10:54 PM on February 2, 2012


Really enjoyed this, and am an ardent proponent of Constellation Records. Parts of the album were eerily unsettling, in the haunted-house-feeling-around-in-the-dark-and-putting-your-hands-in-a-bowl-of-mushy-spaghetti-that's-supposed-to-represent-a-brain kind of way. Quite visceral, and not always pleasant to imagine what the strain must feel like on one's own body, which is also what makes the music so remarkable.

Anyway, thanks for the post. I just noticed that he is in the vast Bon Iver touring orchestra (which may have been already mentioned or inferred here, but anyway - Calgary)
posted by obscurator at 12:13 PM on February 3, 2012


Thanks, You Should See the Other Guy, for the tip ... got the album and am loving it.
posted by mapinduzi at 4:31 PM on February 4, 2012


I've said this before but I'll say it again: Get out and see this man NOW.
His live concerts take an obvious physical toll on his body, and I can't imagine him playing this style much 5 years from now. Get while the getting is good.

I have his new record signed and mounted on my studio wall. Love it.
posted by Theta States at 2:11 PM on February 6, 2012


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