Courtesy of the artist
's hard to believe that so many of the sounds in "Judges" were created by Colin Stetson's saxophones.
Artist: Colin Stetson
CD: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
Every day this week, Song of the Day will showcase a track by an artist playing the South by Southwest music festival. For NPR Music's full coverage of SXSW — complete with full-length concerts, studio sessions, blogs, Twitter feeds, video and more — click here. And don't miss our continuous 100-song playlist, The Austin 100, which features much more of the best music the festival has to offer.
The TV show How It's Made brings the intricate details of assembly lines to numerous North American living rooms. But if the series were to ever branch into exposing the secrets of music production, Colin Stetson's New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges would make for a mind-bending episode.
The album is built on a series of solo saxophone pieces that sound like anything but, thanks to a unique recording style that included using 24 different microphone positions. The mics recorded everything from room ambience to the mechanics of the saxophones themselves.
Still, accepting that every sound in "Judges" was created by a single person is difficult; it's even harder to believe that most these noises came from saxophones. His repetitive phrasing and clicking rhythms function more like the minimalist electronica of Four Tet or Pantha du Prince.
Stetson's circular breathing and flawless fingering could grab anyone's attention. His control is impressive as he brings the piece to wailing highs and ambient lows. Laurie Anderson, who appears elsewhere on the album, closes the piece with a few words, and the whole thing becomes a blurred but enduring memory.