On their own, yet to­gether

Los Angeles Times - - ARTS - RANDALL ROBERTS POP MU­SIC CRITIC randall.roberts@la­times.com

Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stet­son

“Never were the way she was”


A few years ago the vi­o­lin­ist Neufeld and the bass and tenor sax­o­phone player Stet­son per­formed a small gig at Dilet­tante, an art space in industrial down­town. The two, best known as tour­ing mem­bers of Ar­cade Fire, of­fered back-to-back in­stru­men­tal sets that fused jazz, con­tem­po­rary clas­si­cal and avant rock into an un­clas­si­fi­able evening. It was spell­bind­ing mu­sic. On their first col­lab­o­ra­tive al­bum, “Never were the way she was,” the pair work through eight moody tracks that sug­gest the score to a lost psy­chodrama.

On “In the ves­pers,” Neufeld stut­ters through a vi­o­lin line that re­calls the repet­i­tive struc­tures of 1970s-pe­riod Philip Glass while Stet­son blows cir­cu­lar pat­terns with his horn, rhyth­mi­cally click­ing his key but­tons while blow­ing with in­creas­ing in­ten­sity. As the piece evolves, the horn player of­fers ex­pres­sions filled with breath­i­ness one mo­ment but ex­plod­ing with tight bursts the next.

All the while Neufeld traces, re­sponds, of­fers coun­ter­point. “With the dark hug of time” is a whole other beast. While the vi­o­lin­ist scrapes at her in­stru­ment un­til it moans, Stet­son stomps out jumbo bass sax tones like he’s a di­nosaur. At times men­ac­ing, at oth­ers lan­guid and introspective, none of eight works on “Never were” sound much like Ar­cade Fire, Bon Iver, Bell Orchestre, Re­cloose or any other acts with whom the play­ers have col­lab­o­rated. It’s far less teth­ered to struc­ture and way more mys­te­ri­ous.

Adrian Sher­wood “Sher­wood at the Con­trols, Vol. 1: 1979-1984

(On U Sound)

This Bri­tish pro­ducer is best known for found­ing On U Sound, the in­flu­en­tial la­bel that start­ing in the early ’80s has ex­plored the con­ver­gence of Ja­maican reg­gae and dub, African med­i­ta­tions, English post-punk and early synth tones. As a pro­ducer, Sher­wood’s out­put is unim­peach­able, and the ev­i­dence per­me­ates this new col­lec­tion of early pro­duc­tions.

For ex­am­ple, with the guid­ance of post-punk group the Slits, he de­liv­ered heavy bass to go with their ob­long tones, co-pro­duc­ing their ver­sion of singer John Holt’s late-’60s reg­gae song “Man Next Door.” For the acer­bic gui­tar band the Fall, he helped en­gi­neer one of their vi­tal early pe­riod de­con­struc­tions, the “Slates” EP.

An­nie Anx­i­ety’s “Third Gear Kills” is a beat-based echo fest. Recorded af­ter An­nie (born An­nie Band­fez) fell in with the English an­ar­chist punk band Crass and then with Sher­wood, the track is as strange as it is deep. Ex­per­i­men­tal beat duo Shriek­back’s “Mis­tah Linn He Dead” sounds like a freshly minted hip-hop beat. At the cen­ter of all 14 songs are bass and space. Whether with Medium Medium, Vivien Gold­man, Max­i­mum Joy or oth­ers, Sher­wood swims in echo and ef­fects, rev­el­ing in the power of re­verb, feed­back and elec­tron­ics.


SARAH NEUFELD and Colin Stet­son’s “Never” is orig­i­nal.

Sho Kikuchi On U Sound

ADRIAN SHER­WOOD col­lec­tion fea­tures bass and space.

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