To be a true master of an instrument is to transcend that instrument’s boundaries. Colin Stetson has made a name for himself with his own work and as a featured player on some of the most celebrated indie rock albums of this young century. His ability to create lush soundscapes and backbreaking symphonic cacophony with a saxophone is a wonder to behold. It can be so intense, loud, and unfathomably powerful as to cause the uninitiated (or inebriated) to come dangerously close to spilling their guts across the venue floor (I know this from experience).
Stetson’s ability to sound like an entire orchestra with just one instrument is impressive (as he did on the Polaris Music Prize-nominated New History Warfare 3: To See More Light). It is an entirely different kind of thrill to hear Stetson’s unconventional sounds simultaneously conveying the raw, base emotions of underground music, the kind usually reserved for stinky basements outside the city limits.
“In the Clinches” is a taste from Stetson’s forthcoming record All This I Do For Glory, and it is a behemoth of a track. Its angry swirl and maniacal howl are urgent and without equal. It would be one thing to hear a full band like the Jesus Lizard make these wild sounds but it’s a whole different story hearing (and seeing) a lone human with a saxophone emitting the same energy as a band plugged in, sweaty and turned up to 10.
Stetson riffs, drums and yells through his saxophone with palpable passion. It’s enough to knock you over or make you lose your lunch. What are the chances that a master saxophonist releases one of the best and heaviest albums of the year? Based on “In the Clinches” I’d say those odds are high.