New History of Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is the best ambient techno solo sax album you’ve probably never heard of (even better than Stetson’s first, New History of Warfare). Playing mostly baritone and alto sax, Stetson (Arcade Fire, TV On The Radio, Tom Waits, Bon Iver) picks up where Rahsaan Roland Kirk left off. Where Kirk played a multitude of horns simultaneously, Stetson plays one at a time, employing impressive breathing techniques and an array of “24 mic positions” (“no overdubs or looping,” according to his website) to achieve an astonishing, otherworldly sound. “Judges” sets the groove, as Stetson lays down a pulsating bari sax bass line, then breathes the haunting melody. He’s joined by guest vocalist Laurie Anderson on “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes.” And on “The Righteous Wrath of an Honorable Man” Stetson turns up the tempo, breaks out his alto, and crushes listeners’ expectations as to what a saxophone can do.
(Originally appeared in The Valley Advocate.)