Earlier this year, Colin Stetson exploded from popular backup player (everyone from Tom Waits to LCD Soundsystem, David Byrne to Anthony Braxton) to everyone’s favorite bass saxophone solo artist, thanks to the absolutely amazing New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges. There’s something of Albert Ayler’s expressive, expansive free jazz, but there’s something of minimalist pop construction on that record, too. The super-rich, massive bass sax is a tool of unbelievable depth, an innovative player like Stetson honking out the lowest notes the thing will hit, while a moment later squeaking out an extended technique quack. Simultaneously, a track could move from a dissipated droning repetition of mesmerizing licks into an intricately constructed piece of songwriting.
Now that he’s gotten his hook in, the new EP is offering a challenge. This one is for those that didn’t run away from the beautiful, yet difficult LP, the floating horses on the cover of the former replaced by a stark, charging rhinoceros. Rather than overdubbing and looping everything to death, Stetson himself acts like the bruiser on the cover, rushing straight ahead, not looking back, not stopping until he’s demolished everything in his path. The two 10 minute long tracks on Those Who Didn’t Run shudder and moan as they unfold because Stetson does, the man pushing his own limits just as he does the instrument.
On the title track, airy passages swirl like swarms of bees as bassy undertones wash underneath. He moans out primal howls through the mouthpiece, taking on a metallic, animalistic rasp. The keys clatter and the tones distort as Stetson pushes more air through the sax. The fluttering, high register flourishes that introduce “The End of Your Suffering” play like a true B-side should, offering a counterpoint to its flip side. As the simple motif is repeated, new wrenches are thrown in, expanding and unfolding the piece into a massive, beautiful soundscape. While it may not have the pop flourishes that the LP did, Those Who Didn’t Run showcases Stetson’s innovation and raw power.
Essential Tracks: N/A