My brother constantly attempts to help broaden my scope of the music world with his random findings and experimental projects he discovers in the depths of band camp and Tiny Mixtapes. Sometimes it’s hard for me to delve as deep as him or to even handle some of the obscure and odd things he shows me. When he told me that Colin Stetson was probably going to be his album of the year though, I knew I had to at least give it a shot. If my musical genius of a brother considered this the best thing released this year then I had better at least give it a chance.
So I did, and by God, the first song wasn’t even experimental in the slightest. I mean, Justin Vernon himself was singing on it and it could easily have been a hidden track on the last Bon Iver album. As I listened further though, obviously things got a little bit weirder. Colin Stetson is a bass clarinetist but also plays regular clarinet and saxophone. The album features him on all manner of woodwinds, just playing his heart out. It has a very free jazz feel with its irregularity and lack of steady patterns at times. At others, it feels like a very structured yet complicated jazz album with indie rock influences every time either Vernon or someone else lends their lamenting voice to the music. The thing is, there are no drums hardly and the music is normally 100% from Stetson and whatever horn he is playing on that particular track. This is what gives it such a unique sound and vibe. It is a barren sound that borders on insanity as it builds and builds to a thunderous crescendo.
What Stetson is known for is his circular breathing so in other words he never has to break his note as he plays; he stores air in his cheeks and can play continuously. Having played a wind instrument, I realize how truly hard this must have been for him to learn and just knowing that’s what he’s doing makes my respect for him and this album 10 times greater. The fact he is never stopping playing adds to the eeriness of the whole album and also the power behind what he is doing. This is an album that is nothing like what I normally listen to in any way shape or form and it just down right astounded me as it showed me just an inkling of what the full world of music has to offer.