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Colin Stetson and Mats Gustafsson – Stones

Rune Grammofon

Colin Stetson & Mats Gustafsson - StonesThe Swede Mats Gustafsson (The Thing, Fire!, and also appeared with Sonic Youth, Derek Bailey, Peter Brötzmann, etc.) and the Canadian resident Colin Stetson from the US (Arcade Fire, and has also appeared with Laurie Anderson, David Byrne etc.), met for the first time on stage at the Vancouver Jazz Festival in 2011. The performance was recorded, and the result is these four tracks on Stones. Both are young, inventive and uncompromising improvisers, having done remarkable work with their own bands.

When this album dumped in my mailbox, I was not sure what to expect. I am not an historian of jazz music, but the fact that Stones is an album of two saxophones duelling must make it a bit rare. Even more so when the saxophones being used are mainly the bass and the baritone, just occasionally the alto and tenor are being used. I also caught myself thinking what angle can this be viewed by, or how compare it to other work? I listened to it, but I simply couldn’t. I just had to let the music speak for itself, or most importantly let it speak to me.

So I hear elephants roaring shouting, trying to communicate with the neighbour, or whatever relative is in the next oasis, or the other side of the plains trying to sound his emotions, his feelings about the most outrageous happenings of the herd, or the tragic death of a close kin. The plains are also inhabited by rude birds, interacting with the elephants, or bothering them, making the elephant choir rise on speed and level and octave, in order to excavate the obnoxious flying creatures. Suddenly I can hear a hum of dissonant bass that lies underneath the mingling of the reeds, the interaction, and heavy troubled communication of sound. But wait, the hum stops. Suddenly starts again. I stop the music, and the hum continues, a drill in a neighbor wall humming in sync with the soundscape of the album almost making it fit perfectly.

The album continues with saxophones shouting, playing scales up and down, or creating beats, loops together or not, throwing stones. Stones that could be or should be rested, or need not be heavy in order to be played with. Certainly no music to rest to. Screeching sounds up and down the scale, mixed with shouts, hurry, hurry, make a move, you stay sane, I’ll slow down, OK let’s both go wild for a while… Tapping of keys, short sounds, long sounds, all bass or baritone, working very well together, not in each other’s way, not in each other’s window, but on the same wall, or page, or on the same path to a plain where everything makes sense. To stay sane. And they do. Like the stones that need not, or stay subtle for a brief time, but they soon go over the top, a bumble bee, or a wasp, picking on the elephant, or any other creature it can find on the plains. With the stones. And they stay sane, working together as a team.

-Ronny Wærnes-

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