Colin Stetson has never fit well in boxes. Despite being relatively confined to the status of “collaborator”or “studio musician,” Stetson has done his utmost to break out of those boxes and work with some of the foremost musicians of our time, including Arcade Fire, Bon Iver and Bell Orchestre. His instrumentalism also defies classification: he is a multi-instrumentalist, often flipping between his primary saxophone to instruments such as the French horn, flute and clarinet. On All This I Do For Glory, Stetson applies this same disdain for classification to create a loosely-controlled chaos over six tracks.
The first track, “All This I Do For Glory,” is methodical and plodding, often to the point of near madness. The same saxophone structure is repeated over and over while voices and low sweeps occupy the background, appearing every other rise. The track itself does serve its purpose as an intro but is unfortunately dull despite the rather interesting sounds that Stetson is capable of producing with his saxophone. “Like Wolves on the Fold” is immediately more interesting than its predecessor. Stetson’s saxophone playing is chaotic and frenzied, with dozens of notes often occupying the same second. The track does unfortunately overstay its welcome, though, its forceful chaos quickly becoming a drone despite the occasional brief reprises towards the center of the song. The almost extratone nature of the song is nothing if not impressive from a technical standpoint; yet, artistically, it falls somewhat short. There is, however, an extremely gratifying section towards the center, where something like the galloping of hooves enters the fray alongside a fierce crunching noise, serving to add some much appreciated texture to the rather chaotic track.
Of the remaining tracks, “Spindrift” is perhaps the most palatable and engaging, despite its continued extratone tenancies. The background of the track always feels as though it is propelling somewhere beyond its current location. The humming is almost angelic, and the chaotic saxophone becomes almost lulling despite its intensity. It even manages to wind down in an appealing and calming fashion in order to allow the next track to come in and take over quickly. The final track, “The Lure of the Mine,” is the most atmospheric piece on the album yet also one of the most grating. The track is far too long for the pitch at which Stetson plays his saxophone and it will be sure to drive a listener to madness, though the general backing is rather interesting. The amount of notes played within single seconds toward the center of the track becomes completely absurd and even the angelic hum of the background cannot save this track’s undeniable atmosphere from the chaos on the front end.
All This I Do For Glory is a solid entry from an incredible musician. Unfortunately, it often tries to do too much with too little. Though Stetson has the ability to play many instruments and has shown his abilities with a great number of artists, he manages to stick to a fairly limited pallet that does not work in his favor. The songs are often too similar and too chaotic to yield a fully enjoyable experience. Yet, the record is at the very least an incredible display of technical skill and is worth a listen, if only for that reason.