Dec 22 2011
I so badly want to throw out a Neuromancer reference here, to comment that if Wintermute ever recorded a jazz album, that New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is how it would sound. AI Robots manipulating instruments with human-like precision, rapid saxophone lines like strings of binary digits, inverted melodies not quite human but proof of a creative soul, an electric undercurrent beneath a beating heart, and an acute sense of humor not easily translatable. I don’t know if William Gibson ever envisioned this type of album in his cyberpunk novel, but he should have.
With Judges, Multi-reedist Colin Stetson has created a recording of epic breadth and vision. A solo recording that uses no looping and a bunch of mic positions. Mixing jazz, drone, and avant-garde, Stetson has put down an indescribable monstrosity of vast beauty.
Warbling cornet like the honking of birds heading south for the winter, mesmerizing vocal chanting and murmuring bits of dialog from discarded conversations, twisting sax lines veer through tunes bending sound, moments of tranquility broken with tension and panic then back to tranquility, percussion the sound of broken bones thrown down stairs with scientific control. Stetson’s sound experiments are wondrously textured, and the music’s indefinable qualities result in an album that isn’t out of anybody’s reach. By sounding like no kind of music at all, it transforms into everybody’s music.
That’s not say that it’s an album everyone will like. It’s probably not. No album is. But the experimental and creative driving forces of Judges are elements that everyone can relate to. An outstanding album.
A current member of Bon Iver, Stetson has worked with a variety of non-jazz artists, including Tom Waits, David Byrne, and Arcade Fire. Guest vocals on Judges by Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden.
Released on the Constellation Records label.