Never were the way she was, the collaborative record between Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld, is a brilliant, emotional piece of music. They bleed soft moments of ambience into frantic crescendos, painting their souls onto each movement as they trade band and forth who takes the lead.
Despite the fact that Colin Stetson has been publicly expanding the limits of his instrument for several years now, it's still awe-inspiring how songs like the textured, dance haunt "The rest of us" are conjured with just a saxophone and violin. Though that may be understating the power of those instruments in the hands of Stetson and Neufeld.
As expected, Colin Stetson keeps pushing his ingenious saxophone technique here — a combination of circular breathing, reed bending and throat singing — that he has been mastering with his three New History Warfare records. But he also snarls through a contrabass clarinet in the lumbering "With the dark hug of time."
Sticking to the the method of Stetson's solo records, nothing here is overdubbed or synthesized; the songs were worked out while they were touring with Arcade Fire and then later recorded live off the floor. Never were the way she was is an artefact of two musicians with vision bringing their compositions to life in that moment. The record is tied to a certain time, like the aging woman at its thematic centre.