by Laura Stanley
Colin Stetson is a definite underdog to win this year’s Polaris Music Prize but at the same time, he has a hell of a good chance of bringing it home on Monday. Stetson’s album, New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is something that you’ve probably never heard before, taking experimental jazz to another level and redefining the sounds of a saxophone.
The recording process that Stetson followed when making New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is one that is so technical and intriguing and just another aspect that makes this album so unique. All of the songs were recorded live and in a single take which, when listening to the album, almost seems impossible. With such diverse and frankly weird sounds all overlapping, Stetson captures these sounds through various, strategically placed, microphones and then proceeds to mix everything together.
No stranger to performing with music heavyweights like The National, Bon Iver, or fellow Polaris Prize nominees Arcade Fire, Stetson has been receiving a lot of praise for his outlandish music style. New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is cutting edge, with emotion and passion coursing through every song. As a listener, Stetson’s album takes you on an emotional journey as well, feeling uncomfortable one moment and uplifted the next.
With the help of Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) Stetson’s rendition of the Blind Willie Johnson song, “Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes” is an incredibly haunting take on an already powerful song.
So many songs from the album, like “Red Horse (Judges II)” and “Judges” just to name a few, are off putting pieces of music yet at the same time, are able to entrance you. Even if you are not a fan of Stetson’s art form, the creativity and intricate work that goes into every song is truly praise worthy.
Like Polaris’ first winner Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett) or last year’s winner Karkwa, Polaris jurors do have a tendency to reward the underdog. The creative force that is Colin Stetson’s New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, pushes music’s boundaries and for that he deserves the prize.