Colin Stetson is really fucking good at the saxophone. He can do things with his saxophones that I can barely even comprehend, and listening to each of his albums has always been exciting if only to hear where he goes next. Stetson has never been interested in just blowing the thing as intended and on his latest, All This I Do For Glory, his philosophy is unchanged. Though virtuosity risks becoming a party trick in the wrong hands, Stetson’s hands are most assuredly right.
Stetson “drums” by putting microphones inside his saxophone to amplify the sound of its various moving parts and his ability to create a compelling beat has never stronger, the rhythms on the album’s title track are downright groovy. There’s a greater subtlety to this album too, as loops are repeated and morph slowly. It’s as though he’s gently turning the knob on an effects pedal, exploring the furthest reaches of each loop one thirteen-minute circular breath at a time. Perhaps the most impactful development is in the singing he can somehow do while playing the saxophone. He’s elating on ‘Spindrift’ and mournful on ‘Like wolves in the fold’, managing much more than before to make these distinctions.
Stetson has never fit neatly into the neo-classical or jazz boxes people tend to place him and his saxophones in. His music has more in common with the cinematic elements of post-rock and the crushing riffs of thrash metal. This time though, Stetson draws from electronic music. The loops that are the infrastructure of each track recall the analogue synth jams of Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom rather than anything conventionally jazzy. That Stetson wears his influences on his sleeve serves him well. All I Do For Glory takes the familiar and makes it strange through Stetson’s sheer force of will, and there might be no one else who can do it quite like he does.