Colin Stetson fires up at Dingwalls

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On stage, man and machine lock in fractured harmony. The sweaty (sweating) venue soaks up the goosy-garbed belch and piercing overtones. Carnivorous bellows, oscillating pulses, like sawing through a redwood with a whoopee cushion… over and over. Stetson’s circular breathing vacates multi-phonics croaked through contact mics affixed to his neck by dog collar. The technique initially impresses, the elephantine roar of ‘Judges’ wraps round a percussive loop, built from tapping the body of his bass sax. Sounds like a Humpback’s heartbeat echoing through the hollows of the Delaware Aqueduct. But the initial impact of original process quickly fades.

Compositions such as ‘A Dream Of Water’ and ‘To See More Light’ appear built from the same bare bones as the thuggish swing of Mats Gustafsson’s The Thing, but here any dissonance is kept on a regimentally tight leash, leaving only polite residues to trickle out into the night. Cropped of the vocal elements and finessed production of Stetson’s studio recordings, one expansive instrumental pours into the drone of the next.

There’s also a prevailing air that, whereas newbies getting an earful of The Thing for the very first time might have their curiosity piqued towards an epiphany of Spiritual Unity discovery, tonight’s rapturous crowd are content to cherish Stetson as a token gesture, annexing him forever as a freakish sideshow for an Arcade Fire support slot. That probably won’t bother him – in interviews he’s quick to shy away from the ‘jazz’ tag. But that technique deserves better. Let’s just hope he can muster other modes while articulating it.

– Spencer Grady