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Colin Stetson - Sarah Neufeld: 'Never were the way she was [Constellation]' makes 'popMatters - 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015'

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Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we're finally getting through to them.

In spite of the great lull in today's rock music climate, 2015 proved an astonishing year for experimental music, signifying the simultaneously shrinking and expanding gap between avant-garde and pop traditions. Several of this year's releases, like Clarence Clarity's ineffable No Now or new albums by Oneohtrix Point Never and Holly Herndon, tackle heady concepts of global capitalism and hyper-connectivity of the Internet Age.

While some albums venture into brutal and immersive territory-Blanck Mass' Dumb Flesh, Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld's Never were the way she was, and Prurient's Frozen Niagara Falls-others are glossy and luminous-for instance, the bubblegum bass of PC Music's new compilation or the plinking and clinking of Battles' La Di Da Di. Overall, music of all kinds seems to be tending toward a consciously experimental direction.

Just look at recent music from hip-hop greats Kendrick Lamar and Kanye, or even the work of pop stars Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. Maybe we're finally getting through to them.

In April, a couple of Constellation instrumentalists-Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld-got together to produce the craggy shambler Never were the way she was. The two have occupied close quarters in the past (in Arcade Fire, Stetson was a collaborator and Neufeld a core member). Here, the two position themselves outside the formal constraints of classical and jazz, though the traditions inform their work as much as any others. Never were the way she was tells the story of a girl "who ages slow as mountains; excited, exalted, and ultimately exiled in her search for a world that resembles her experience".

"The sun roars into view" roars into view from a ghostly wisp into a Lovecraftian beast, and "In the vespers" is a jubilant breaking free from a wildwood enclosure. And few song titles more adequately describe their own effect than "With the dark hug of time". Between Stetson's torrential blasts and clacks of bass clarinet and contrabass sax-waves smashing ceaselessly on the shore-and Neufeld's relentless flourishes of string-an epic weaving of linen tapestry-Never were the way she was implores us to contemplate our journey rather than plow through it. To adequately hum these tunes, your entire lymphatic and digestive systems must hum as well.

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