After spending so much time checking out the best indie rock the city has to offer, sometimes I need a change of pace. That change was in the form of Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld, a saxophonist and violinist respectively. While they both have their hands full with solo projects and moonlighting in other bands, both with Arcade Fire and Colin most notably with Bon Iver, the duo are no strangers to collaboration, having been part of an improv jazz trio back in 2010. With their new release, Never Were The Way She Was – a mere 8 songs long, the songs are more than lush enough to provide enough dimension and variation to fill out a live performance that left me wanting more at Bowery Ballroom.
Along for the ride, Ryan Sawyer served as the opening act, playing freeform drum compositions over loosely sung folk-rock numbers. To be honest, I didn’t pay that close attention to the words he was singing because he was shredding on his kit. His drumming didn’t come across so freeform that we got lost in the music, it was perfectly executed and included additional percussion from cowbells littered across his kit, and skittering scratches across his drum skins. The crowd was open to any and everything, proven by the raucous applause from the back of the room.
Colin and Sarah took the stage in total darkness with only their silhouettes outlined by the light and backdrop behind them. The picture of barren trees set the stage for their songs that “metaphorical narrative of the life of a girl who ages slow as mountains; excited, exalted, and ultimately exiled in her search for a world that resembles her experience.” Colin’s contribution is entirely unique; without relying on any overdubs, loops or layers, Colin is able to use a technique called circular breathing to create multiple voices in real time by way of reed vocalizations, percussive valve-work, clicking keys, and growling. Sarah’s contribution is ethereal vocals coupled with her expert violin work. Together the pair creates something transcendent. The minutes flew by far too fast as they played “The sun roars into view,” “In the vespers,” and ending the night with the title track before returning for a lullaby to send us off into a peaceful dream.
Article: Lesley Keller