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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl & Eclectic Team
4 stars Great new album from the Swiss minimalist rock band Sonar & their first on Cuneiform. Hopefully this will give them a broader audience particularly in North America. I struggle to fit them into a genre, which is often a good thing, as they have a pretty unique sound.

Their most obvious influences are probably Nik Bartsch's Ronin, Dawn Of Midi and Brandt Brauer Frick, all of whom show influences from Steve Reich and Phillip Glass' 20th century minimalism. Where they differ from these bands is with their rock edge. They are a two guitar, bass & drums straight setup which gives them a basic heavy edge.

All the tracks feature the locked in groove with overlapping patterns of tri-tone C & F# piling layer upon layer. This is music to disappear in as it takes you to a trance like space. Highly recommended for fans of minimalism & rock.

"...Sonar's idiosyncratic sound world...once you are in, you don't want to leave..." ? Nik Bärtsch (pianist, composer and ECM recording artist)

"Had MC Escher made music instead of drawing his famously impossible and perplexing perspectives, it would sound like Sonar." ? Sid Smith, Prog Magazine

Report this review (#1176112)
Posted Saturday, May 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars If there is Post Rock/Math Rock, this should be Post Rock in Opposition/Math Jazz??

Clearly untaggable to none, but this Sonar (there is another band same name here in PA), which is found in the RiO/AV sub-genre, 2014 second album, "Static Motion", works like a swiss- clock when it comes to performance. And even better than that, they are full of musical-creativity, which moves their music towards unexpected territories.

These new "landscapes" are very far fom being the usual "freak-Jazz" / off-beat music, this category is usually flooded with. Opposite to that, these explorations find shelter in quiet hospitable environments, which not because of the same, lose their mysterious and hypnotic instrumental trance or value.

So, no screams, or untuned endless sax "thrills", or far-fetched pretentions. (These guys will wither in this category as such!). They are avant-garde because they have no fear of not being that!

Creative, tight musical sculptures, without any kind of paraphernalia or "novel" idiosincracies, set to slow-tempo intricate passages, which are threaded perfectly, by the sheer genius of its compositions, which by themselves have no need for artificial decorations. Performed with a basic 4 tight-piece unit, which has a very clear notion to where they are heading (or not) always.

Post/Rock/ Mathers, Electronics, Avant Gardes, Modern Jazz and maybe some RiO followers will have a bash with this one.

As for me, truly perfect, no single complaint! (in fact I am going to buy also their first album!)

****4 shimmering PA stars.

Report this review (#1199711)
Posted Sunday, June 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Swiss band SONAR got their name from the SONic ARchitecture they create which is polymetric and highly structured. The two guitars and bass are tuned to the tritones which gives this album a dark mood throughout. We get two guitarists a bass player and drummer. This is Math Rock for sure yet with a twist I guess you could say. KING CRIMSON certainly came to mind with how precise and complex this is. It was recorded live in studio at Ocean Sound Recordings in Norway with very little done to it afterwards except some reverb. Someone stated that the music gives the impression of moving yet it makes no progress. Nik Bartsch said "Once you are in SONAR's sound world you won't want to leave" and for me this was very true. I usually complain about 70 minute albums but for a minimalistic recording at that length the time always flies by, very strange other than I love this style of instrumental music.

I won't say much on each track but first up is "Static Motion" the title track that some compare to being a cross between "Fracture" and "Meeting Of The Spirits". Atmosphere to start as the drums rumble in and out. Picked guitar after a minute and a second one joins in. It settles in around 2 minutes with drums and bass. This is so good! A calm 3 1/2 minutes in. "Twofold Covering" is one of my favourites. I just adore this minimalistic stuff that is so dark and precise. "Landslide" is another track that is dark with intricate sounds throughout.

"Shadow Play" is another highlight for me. It has this "Lost In Space" vibe to it. "Triptych" has one of the few breakout moments after 5 minutes when things pickup and turn fuller. "Continuum" continues with the same style although the guitars are almost playful 4 minutes in. "Tranceportation" is such a great title and yes it sounds like we are moving forwrd in a trance-like state. Nice bass after 3 minutes as well. "Zero Tolerance" is a little more intense than the other songs and I like each time the tension breaks. "Verticle Time" is spacey and is possibly the most minimalistic tune on here.

Man I dig this album yet I get the reasons some are less than thrilled with it. A solid 4 stars.

Report this review (#1431607)
Posted Sunday, June 28, 2015 | Review Permalink

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