Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld are an instrumental experimental post-rock/contemporary classical duo from Montréal. You probably already know both of them, and they’ve worked together before, but their forthcoming album is the first on which they’re the primary musicians.
Neufeld is a violinist who has been a semi-permanent member of The Arcade Fire. She’s also worked with The Bell Orchestre and The Luyas. Her solo debut Hero Brother was released in August of 2013. She definitely has a punk rock approach to playing the violin. Of course there’s a lot of grace and technical proficiency, but she’s very creative in her strokes and her style, and there’s a lot of personality in what she does.
Stetson is a masterful saxophonist who has also worked with Arcade Fire. He’s also appeared on albums by Tom Waits, Bon Iver, Feist, TV on The Radio, and Jolie Holland. You probably recall his trilogy of solo records New History Warfare. Volume 2 of those albums, which was subtitled Judges, was my tenth favorite Canadian album of 2011. That was back when I used to make a “Canadian” and a “non-Canadian” list, which started off as a play on the joke that people think I’m Canadian.
Anyway, Stetson is a phenomenal saxophonist. Not the tenor sax that most people are used to seeing in marching bands or the baritone that most people are used to seeing in symphony orchestras. The bass sax. Much bigger and pitched much lower than those more common ones. He’s perfected the art of circular breathing, which means that he breathes in through his nose while simultaneously breathing out through his mouth. This means he can play a continuous note for a crazily long amount of time. He also does really creative things with the keys and the valves to create percussion-like sounds on his albums. But really, it’s just him.
I had no idea that this Stetson/Neufeld collaboration was happening until I read something about it a while back on the Constellation Records website and then found a promo copy of the album in my mailbag the other day.
The album is much more approachable than Stetson’s solo records. I like those records a lot, but sometimes it just gets to be saxophone overload for me. The violin definitely softens the corners a little bit, and somehow, they mesh together really nicely. There are a few times where it’s hard to tell where the sax ends and the violin begins.
Today’s song is the first song from the album, which comes out this coming Tuesday, April 28.
“The Sun Roars Into View” by Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld
This is undoubtedly very dark, but the violin bits help lift it up out of the swamp and almost touch the sky. Let’s not kid ourselves, though. It’s not one of those cloudless skies. No. It’s cloudy as all get-out, and threatening rain. Any bursts of sunlight are the ones that just momentarily creep through the clouds.
Stetson and Neufeld are currently touring Europe and the UK. In June, they’ll play a very compact “North American tour” of seven dates with nothing further west than Toronto and nothing further south than New York City.
The album comes out on Tuesday, and you can order it from Constellation now in your choice of format here.