A Girl Who Ages as Slow as Mountains
July 12, 2016 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Using just the saxophone, violin, and their voices--and with no looping--saxophonist Colin Stetson and violinist Sarah Neufeld create incredibly layered and engrossing aural landscapes on their 2015 album Never were the way she was. Their video for "The rest of us", directed by Dan Huiting, is cinematic in its own right, but it's the driving gallop of the music that will stick with you.

If you can't believe that just two people and two instruments are making all that sound, you can also watch them perform live: "The Rest of Us" and "The Sun Roars Into View."

Stetson and Neufeld briefly discuss the album for Billboard here, and in more depth for q on CBC here, where they go into the album's narrative about "the life of a girl who ages as slow as mountains."

The full album is available to stream on Youtube.

(Colin Stetson previously: 1, 2, 3)
posted by yasaman (23 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
pitchfork (7.7) (sorry if it's above and i can't see it).
posted by andrewcooke at 6:34 PM on July 12, 2016

Oh, I like this! I'll be putting this on while I work tomorrow.
posted by aka burlap at 7:20 PM on July 12, 2016

Yeah, this was my favorite instrumental record of last year. Totally stunning in every way.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:25 PM on July 12, 2016

So is the sax player doing some kind of didgeridoo circular breathing voodoo thing? Whatever, it's astonishingly good noise. Thanks.
posted by merocet at 7:44 PM on July 12, 2016

"The sun roars into view" might be the best new bit of music I've heard in quite a while. Wonderful, I need more of this.
posted by Death and Gravity at 7:55 PM on July 12, 2016

some kind of didgeridoo circular breathing voodoo thing

and singing.
posted by flabdablet at 7:56 PM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

So is the sax player doing some kind of didgeridoo circular breathing voodoo thing?

Yup, Colin Stetson does some circular breathing magic to achieve this sound.
posted by yasaman at 8:02 PM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, this breakdown of Stetson's Judges shows the mic set up that contributes to the sound.

As an aside, I came to Never were the way she was thanks to Olafur Arnalds' Late Night Tales mix, which stopped me in my tracks with "And Still They Move." I recommend the whole mix, actually, Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld is just the first rabbit hole it sent me down, there are some good picks there.
posted by yasaman at 8:26 PM on July 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

I remember his interview on Q. What an astonishing performance. Thanks for posting this!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:37 PM on July 12, 2016

Colin Stetson's bass saxophoning with Bon Iver is just incredible. The Austin City Limits I find endlessly rewatchable. I used to put it on when I was cleaning but then I would stop cleaning, what with being transfixed and all.
posted by supercres at 9:06 PM on July 12, 2016

Those two live videos also mind-blowing. The one where he's playing tenor perhaps even more so. Bass saxophone is almost a whole different beast; the huge chambers and percussive pads lend themselves to something otherworldly. But to get those sounds from a garden-variety tenor sax is boggling. Makes me want to pick mine up, but I think after so many years it would be a sobering experience.

Don't ever put the horn down, kids.
posted by supercres at 9:13 PM on July 12, 2016

Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld - Moers Festival 2015

There are no words.
posted by flabdablet at 9:25 PM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've had Sorrow on repeat ever since I discovered it via its FPP in April. So amazing. Thanks for more to listen to.
posted by not_the_water at 9:32 PM on July 12, 2016

A friend recently turned me on to Colin Stetson and I cannot get enough.
posted by deadbilly at 9:54 PM on July 12, 2016

This is perfect drawing music. Thank you for the soundtrack to my night's work!
posted by otherthings_ at 10:27 PM on July 12, 2016

Back in the early 2000s, Stetson's first group, Transmission Trio, used to perform live, for free (or negligible cover? I forget) Saturday nights at Storyville in San Francisco. Some buddies and I had a habit of going and listening often. Sometimes we were the only people paying attention. The sets were amazing and powerful and unique. Stetson would come sit and chat and drink with us after the shows. He was always kind and funny and humble. Once, I recall, they also played live at someone's house party in the foyer of an apartment building. People sat on the steps and the floor and pretty much anywhere a human body could be fit. The band's eventual album doesn't really do the live sets justice. I'm so glad his career has put him in a larger spotlight - great music, great human being.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:03 AM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Wow. The music video is fine, but the performances are amazing. Not just because of how precise they are, but how their bodies move. Sarah seems to be staring into a portal to a dimension of demons located in Colin's forehead. Colin, as usual, looks like he's about to explode. Its like their bodies and minds are absolutely committed to making the music. I almost find it difficult to watch.

In the second track of the Moers concert, Colin is playing a saxophone I've never seen before. Perhaps a bass? It makes an inhuman growl. Seems to be turned on itself three times, but it's quite thin. What is it?
posted by sixohsix at 6:05 AM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Doing more research, I think Stetson might be playing a contrabass sarrusophone.
posted by sixohsix at 6:58 AM on July 13, 2016

I'm a saxophonist myself, and Stetson is my favorite living saxophonist. I can't think of another player who is the same combo of ingenious and creative and technically astounding. The guy has just really pushed the limits of what sax playing and sax music can be - and sax culture is already pretty progressive compared to other instruments. I always look forward to anything he's involved in.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:33 AM on July 13, 2016

This is absolutely fantastic. Thanks so much.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:26 AM on July 13, 2016

Thank you for this. Amazing sound.
posted by the sobsister at 5:55 PM on July 13, 2016

We saw him play with drummer Frank Rosaly last year and it was astonishing.

We have tickets to see him again next month with Sara Neufeld, and I could not be more completely stoked. This is going to be AMAZING.
posted by bibliogrrl at 10:35 AM on July 14, 2016

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