In 2015 it’s a bold move to release a purely instrumental album of expertly-composed violin and horn parts. Hell, it’s probably been a bold — or rather, unprofitable — move for at least the last decade, if not longer. Though classical and compositional works still occupy a respected place in culture, the majority of listeners simply won’t engage with a tangled, enigmatic, and difficult-to-process album like Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld’s Never Were The Way She Was. Perhaps that’s what makes this album full of tense, mythical movements seem so regal — it’s a rare feat.
Previously, I wrote about how “The Sun Roars Into View” felt like a frightening, visceral thing of beauty. The rest of the album continues in that vein — “With The Dark Hug Of Time” growls and buzzes like a gritty scene from Saw; the title track lurches like a vacuum cleaner on the edge of a cliff. It’s Neufeld’s patient, soothing violin that often keep these songs from drifting into full-blown drone territory, but even the string section grows teeth at times, like the stinging, discordant moments of “In The Vespers.” Listening to this album is much more like watching a horror film, you have to pay attention to the interplay of light and dark, but it’ll keep you on the edge of your seat if you follow the carefully plotted action. (They’ve even outlined a mini-narrative for you here.) Listen below.
Never Were The Way She Was will be out 4/28 via Constellation.