Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered and mastered by Sam Patlove
They say that when the rains come, it's when you know that the tornado has passed through. It's done with you and all of your stuff. The thunderous collision of natural wrath expounding on the constructions of man, woman and child has also subsided at that point and what those in the path of that awesome, just-finished row are left with are pieces and something both settling and disturbing: wet clothes and a gruesome silence that's punctuated only by the patter of droplets hitting your bed, couch and the like. Logic has been flipped inside-out. The scene's turned, suddenly, unnatural, but you're finally able to think and to hear yourself quietly weep in your new, lost state. It's this new, quiet place -- surrounded by the shattered particles of what used to be sacred, what used to be normal and whole -- that Montreal by-way-of-Ann Arbor's Colin Stetson brings us to. The in-demand saxophonist (touring member of Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre, as well as one of the go-to buddies of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon) makes music that feels like it's been culled from the repressed memories of those who have seen planes go down, out in the middle of know where, heard and seen those explosions and then heard the nothingness that comes next.
The song, "Judges," begins with a swinging, full-depth wailing sound that seems to be coming from a lighthouse, stuck in the ground, on the beaten shores of a coast, calling out for a lost love or an abducted child. It's a clarion call for help, through the dense fog. It's the sound of mankind showing its fear. When the light rotates back around, as it does on cue, it strikes the water and you see the pink and golden metal reflections of gasoline. It's flowing toward the land, spilling out of the tank of the machine that crashed further out in the ocean. It's a message back from the mess, a message that you might not want to see this, but someone's going to need to get out here to see this, to help with the cleanup. It sounds as if there are ghosts, or the newly lost souls speaking toward the end of the song, as Stetson lets his instrument ramble along, blowing smoke and scaring us a little bit.
The songs on "New History Warfare -- Judges, Vol. 2" seem to come from broken pieces of what's out there hurting, what's out there for us to find if we were to go on a scavenger hunt for the voices in the rubble. It's all incredibly human without sounding like anyone that we've ever heard. Stetson expresses himself with a communication all his own, a transmission from the wreckage that comes back at use like new poetry.