Friday, 1 May 2015

Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld - Never Were the Way She Was, album review

Another Ear on the Block

This is a pulsating collaboration between saxophonist Colin Stetson and violinist Sarah Nuefield, and if you don’t get in there before other reviewers you will inevitably be playing linguistic catch-up, so in mentioning honks and screeches and pulses [again] and sonic and landscape and painting I am duplicating others but that’s because these are the obvious musical and metaphoric words to describe this sound. Those onomatopoeic words say more of the bass and tenor saxophones, but this is where the jarring and beats come from, whilst the wail and hiss and slicing comes from the violin. I think some of those are my own. I’m going to call it hypnotic and grating and also strangely soothing and like sirens at times and choric because I’m throwing loads of apt words out there which I haven’t seen because I stopped reading other reviews to allow me  a little room for manoeuvre, though they may have been used. Likely to have been used. It doesn’t matter.

The actual aural assault is not in the words and if you want a bit of instrumental sparring, opener The Sun Roars into View and third In the Vespers pummel wonderfully. Fourth And Still They Move is much more haunting and slowed in its pace, like a modern and amped Third Ear Band sketching out the inside of Macbeth’s sleepless head rather than a landscape. Fifth With the Dark Hug of Time enters the cavern where the naked witches are even more disturbing than Polanski’s vision.

I’m guessing no one else has thought of Macbeth and I admit I am smugly pleased about that. More importantly, the Third Ear Band reference is quite apt and if you like the eerie and atmospheric played out similarly but louder and more electronically orchestral, this will please, in both disturbing and soothing ways.

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