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SONAR

RIO/Avant-Prog • Switzerland


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Sonar biography
Founded in Zürich, Switzerland in 2010

Sonar is a progressive, post-minimal band from Switzerland. Their name stands for SONic ARchitecture, a name which alludes to their intention of creating polymetric and highly structured avant-rock. They are probably closest in aesthetic to Brandt Brauer Frick and Nik Bartsch Ronin due to their minimalist sound though they play with much more of a rock feel than either of those bands. You'll hear elements of King Crimson & Present. Their sound is uniquely recognizable due to the tuning of the guitars and the bass guitar to tritones (C / F# / C / F# / C / F#).They play highly repetitive layered polyrhythms that move in and out of synch through out the pieces. For such complex layering they play with a stripped down lack of technology with a straight forward 2 guitars, bass, and drums. This is a band to take you to a trance like state with the endless groove.

To date Sonar have released two studio albums, a live album and an EP, the most recent of which is on that bastion of experimental music Cuneiform Records

-- Nogbad_the_Bad (Ian)

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SONAR Videos (YouTube and more)


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Buy SONAR Music


Black LightBlack Light
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2017
$16.78
$21.34 (used)
Flaw of NatureFlaw of Nature
Unsung Rec. 2012
$14.30
$17.70 (used)
Live at MoodsLive at Moods
7D Media 2018
$15.48
$12.30 (used)
Static MotionStatic Motion
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2014
$10.98
$18.41 (used)

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SONAR discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SONAR top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.06 | 15 ratings
A Flaw Of Nature
2012
4.01 | 26 ratings
Static Motion
2014
4.29 | 20 ratings
Black Light
2015
3.92 | 96 ratings
Sonar & David Torn: Vortex
2018

SONAR Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 3 ratings
Live At Bazillus
2012
4.02 | 4 ratings
Live At Moods
2018

SONAR Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SONAR Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

SONAR Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.09 | 2 ratings
Skeleton Groove
2012

SONAR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Live At Moods by SONAR album cover Live, 2018
4.02 | 4 ratings

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Live At Moods
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Sonar were formed in 2010 and comprise Stephan Thelen (tritone guitar), Bernhard Wagner (tritone guitar), Christian Kuntner (tritone bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums). Since then they have created quite a reputation for themselves with their jagged eclectic RIO jazz approach to progressive rock, and for their fourth full-length studio album, 'Vortex', they invited producer (and guitarist, film-composer) and David Torn to work with them. During the recording, the chemistry between Sonar and David Torn worked so well that Torn was invited to play on every track. So, when the band played a concert at Moods Jazz Club in Z'rich, Switzerland, on May 24th last year, they took the opportunity to invite David to join them and this is the result.

There are three pieces from Vortex ('Waves and Particles', 'Red Shift' and 'Lookface!'), a piece from 'Static Motion', 'Twofold Covering', and an improvised David Torn solo piece called 'For Lost Sailors' together with 'Troms'', a piece that Sonar played without David Torn. This last is one of the very first songs they rehearsed together and opens their debut album 'A Flaw of Nature'. This is music which is on the edge, guitarists combining together to create something ethereal, threatening, complex, yet also with space between the layers. This is King Crimson being taken to a different musical world, where musicians are allowed by the audience to relax into their art, only making a sound when a track has ended. Complex, this is music which hurts when played loudly, as the brain attempts to digest what is happening in front of its ears and generally fails.

There is nothing relaxing or calm about this music, it is designed to cause an emotional flight or fight response, and it is incredibly hard to listen to in many ways. That the listener needs to make the effort as there is a great deal to be gained from it is never in doubt. This is music pushing boundaries, truly progressing.

 Live At Moods by SONAR album cover Live, 2018
4.02 | 4 ratings

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Live At Moods
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars The swiss music ensemble SONAR recently have produced the studio album 'Vortex' in collaboration with guitarist and composer David Torn. This corresponding live performance was recorded at the Moods Jazz Club, Zürich, in May 2018. They have taken over half of the songs here, the others are earlier band compositions, respectively For Lost Sailors eventually turns out to be a David Torn solo piece. On the stage the fivesome generates an atmospheric vibe beyond comparison. Which basically comes from an intriguing virtuoso triple guitar work, partially King Crimson inspired. This supported by the prolific rhythm branch comprised of Christian Kuntner (bass) as well as drummer Manuel Pasquinelli.

The band name by the way results from the conjunction of the terms SONic and ARchitecture. Well chosen! Polyrhythm is the name of the game. As one might expect the interplay of both regular guitarists Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner is well-functioning, furthermore though Torn fits in like a longtime member with ease. The sound quality leaves nothing to be desired. A must hear, any other try regarding a proper description will fail, I'm quite sure. This was completely filmed too, so I would not be surprised if there will be a DVD available sooner or later, possibly depends on a growing attention. Well deserved in any case. Fantastic experience, highly recommended!

 Sonar & David Torn: Vortex by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.92 | 96 ratings

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Sonar & David Torn: Vortex
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Now here is something truly interesting: Swiss instrumental Math Rock band, master of heady polyrhythmic constructs, has guitarist extraordinaire David Torn sitting in and lifting their songs geometrically with his sonic magic.

1. "Part 44" (9:56) bass, drums and two guitars establish a fabric over which David Torn adds his guitar meanderings. The frequent shifting of chords between the two arpeggiating guitars makes this quite interesting and engaging. At 2:40 there is a shift into lower octaves that gives Torn's guitar more prominence (which he could take more advantage of). By the end of the fourth minute the baseline weave thins for a while as Torn disappears. The bass gets prominence here until a sudden thunder bolt of static bursts in at 4:55: Torn is ready to tear it up. After a minute of more static, David finally does just that--piercing the treble lines with some shrill notes. Towards the end of the seventh minute, his solo becomes more active--and continues to do so for the next glorious ninety seconds. After that the drums and bass are left to "clean up" beneath Torn's sustained scream. Nice job--as a band! (9/10)

2. "Red Shift" (10:31) opens with strumming guitars and jazzy cymbal play with simple bass. At 0:55 there is a key shift but the fabric remains essentially the same. At 1:36 there is a shift into more oppositional polyrhythmic strumming and then picking from the two guitars. (Still no Torn.) A quiet passage at the end of the third minute hails the arrival of Mr. Torn. An extended solo passage of David Torn's most unbridled soloing starts around 3:10, escalates, and lasts into the second half of the sixth minute. The song then plays out in a quieter, less dynamic version of the first two minutes.(9/10)

3. "Waves And Particles" (7:49) a slow, subtly developing whole-band weave of the KING CRIMSON "Discipline" style- -until David lets loose in the second half. Man, this guy can make a guitar sing and scream and wail like NOBODY else! (9.5/10)

4. "Monolith" (10:47) radio-like sound frequencies are interspersed with two (and later three--Torn's) guitars each doing their own thing in contribution to the polyphonic weave. Again, the most interesting part of this otherwise- dull song is Torn's soloing in the middle (sixth through eighth minutes). (8/10)

5. "Vortex" (9:37) drums and deep bass notes play a little more prominently into the polyrhythmic weave from the start of this one. In the second minute one of the guitars (R) tries to spice it up a bit with a faster arpeggio and then some heavy reverb and long sustain. At 2:35 the left guitar takes a turn in the lead with some strumming. Then ride cymbal is played while David Torn's single sustained note enters and takes the fore. The ensuing solo, over the band's excellent low-based weave, is awesome. Then, just as suddenly, at 3:50, Torn crescendoes and fades while everyone else quiets down. Halfway through the fifth minute, David makes a return appearance before the drums and right guitar resume their place in the most interesting spots in the soundscape. Odd guitar sounds (except to those fans of Adrian Belew) sneak in from time to time as the band fades down and out of the mix, only to return in a cool way at 7:20. Torn begins to shred and tear at the skies again soon after. Guitars return in support in the final minute as band mounts a final cresendo beneath Torn's rents. Second best song on the album. (9.5/10)

6. "Lookface!" (7:13) what causes this song to stand out is its full-out start: everybody bursting into their power moves, all at the same time, from the song's opening note. Then, in a reversal of expected patterns, the song becomes quiet and delicate in the second half. Brilliant and very engaging! The best song on the album! (9.5/10)

Five stars; a masterpiece of King Crimson Discipline-inspired instrumental progressive rock music.

 Sonar & David Torn: Vortex by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.92 | 96 ratings

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Sonar & David Torn: Vortex
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by mitarai_panda

4 stars Sonar is a pioneering band from Switzerland, founded in 2012. Their name represents a certain architectural genre that solidifies the music, which means that they intend to create diversified and highly structured avant-garde rock. In terms of style, they are minimalist. They have two three-stringed guitars to do this. It is similar to KC, and often plays highly repeated multi-level music, reminiscent of a tape delay recording system like Robert Fripp. This year's Vortex (with David Torn) is their fourth album. Please come to a jazz expert David Torn to help them. David Torn was selected as the best experimental guitarist, but he is good at electronic music and similar. The electronic programming of the device, which helped the band achieve many sound effects and level changes. In terms of new specialization, this kind of minimalism similar to the late KC brought an embarrassing psychedelic state, but because it is not too heavy, I think it can be called a psychedelic and jazz KC, full of mysteries and Hypnosis. It's like a musical sculpture, full of compact composition and addictive. Of course this can also be called Math Rock. All songs are full of rhythm, but using wacky rhythms, based on repetition and dynamic variables, the time accuracy is accurate, so it can be called mathematical rock as if it were constructed. A seemingly irregular but full of regular blockhouses, a seemingly asymmetrical and actually exact copy of the piece, a visual aesthetic works with a simple but deep complex and complex structure, 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4 shots Build and parallel in turn. In order to create such an ultra-rational effect, David Torn's assistance is crucial. An electronic crimson king hides madness and irrationality in strict discipline. The first half of the album still maintains a brighter hue. It is not enough to get dark and mad at the back. The bass rhythm in the tail song Lookface! is crazy, but it has to be admired. A surprising rock math masterpiece , a model of music architecture. Conservative to a four-star, but may be able to reach four and a half stars! Strongly recommended.
 Skeleton Groove by SONAR album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2012
4.09 | 2 ratings

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Skeleton Groove
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

4 stars At 23-1/2 minutes, this EP contains four pieces that were the first to emerge after recording their first album, "A Flaw Of Nature". It was recorded in June 2012 at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne. The composition of all tracks are credited to Stephen Thelen, except "Gordian Knot" which is credited to Bernhard Wagner and Stephen Thelen. Special thanks were sent out to Nik Bartsch, Mike Chadwick, John Schaefer, and Sid Smith.

This album features their classic tri-tone tuned guitars, but with faster overall tempo. The poly-rhythmic structure of their songs is depicted on the back cover which shows a matrix of 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4 time all running simultaneously -- a style which was used on the first two tracks.

Occasional keyboard/synth effects in the background of track 1, "Skeleton Groove (ecoplex remix)", provides a hint of the sounds on the album "Vortex" with David Torn playing eerily soothing, long-sustained guitar notes in the background.

The song "Black Light" makes its first appearance here before being an integral part of the eponymous album released in 2015. The recording here, though, is at a slightly faster tempo, and arranged to be a little more accessible to those who don't get the whole poly-rhythmic thing. In many ways, I like this arrangement better than the one on their later album.

The last two tracks are more in line with the style prevalent on their more recent albums, but they contain some uncharacteristic dramatic flourishes which makes them quite interesting.

This is a wonderful album that offers features not often heard (before) on their other works: faster tempo, background harmonies, and melodic surprises. An easy 4 stars.

 Black Light by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.29 | 20 ratings

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Black Light
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by dion

5 stars SONOR ARCHITECTURES SONAR is an encryption standing for "SONic ARchitecture", and their music, of an unique simplicity and magic, hypnotic and obsessive, is like defining deconstructions and reconstructions of a lost kenopsystical city resembling the paintings of deChirico. The sonar fluid embraces you and set you over with it on visual dreaming phantasms. The sound rhythmical substance, working precisely like a Swiss watch, become reductive to an essence minimalism molded with fine refinement. The two guitar players in the group formula (Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner), we could expect at a demonstration of virtuosity, at passionate fast speed dialogues with notes tighten tumultuous together as in the ubiquitous rock tradition. Backed up by Christian Kuntner (bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums), the two guitar players builds up the dialogue in complementary in which each resonates together in unwonted and fascinating sound landscapes. The result is a rigorous build up symbiosis which thought to essence in complex polyphonies. The music of SONAR is a retrospection in the intuitive expressionism of Stockhausen, with stylistic nuances which can be associated with the music of Robert Fripp, Nik Bärtsch Ronin or Steve Reich. Founded in 2010 in the underground clubs of Zürich, the group SONAR shapes itself an unique place in the contemporary progressive music, all their albums being downright perfect. The uncanny atmosphere streaming out of the sound, so unique but so recognizable, is maybe due as well to the way as the members of the group tune up their instruments in the three-tonic module (C / F# / C / F# / C / F#), a specific feature to be found in the primitive ? tribal or ritualistic of "Maori", "Vedic" or "Herranza" music. Simple by appearance, complex by the structure of the polyphonic layer lines which overlaps in rhythmical asymmetries, the sound product is eluding the easy ways and stereotypes of the conventional compositions. The eccentricity of the SONAR sound it's not a researched one, but an undisguised vision of the idiosyncratic sound aesthetics the members of the group share together. The last SONIC album, "Black Light" from 2015, chronological their fourth, was recorded live in the studio, without any additions at editing. This technical element of recording creates in whole an organized (oxymoronic) spontaneous state of mind, as well as an emotion of a genuine kind. "Ennergram", the tune that opens the album, lines up the generic approach of the mathematical sound of the entire album. From the very first accords touches of the "Black Light" tune, we can recognize the atmospheric influence of the "Lark's Tongues In Aspic" (King Crimson) tune, theme which SONAR group is dressing it up and takes it over to a novel sonic spatiality. Already being placed on this orbit of travelling space landscapes, the follow up "Orbit 5.7" is a melodic geometry delineating even more the rhythmic mathematics in "Enneagram". The repetitive rhythmic sequence of "Angular Momentum" is inducing a psychedelic trance. "Stri Geometry" is a melodic geometry build up on contretemps measures. The last recorded tune in the studio, "Critical Mass" is the most intricate and "nervous" tune on the album. The album wraps up with two live bonus tracks: "Twofold Covering" and "Tromsö" which rounds out and emphasize this exceptional production. Listening to the album "Black Light" is a real and surprisingly pleasant experience for which I give 5 stars without hesitation ! Daniel Ionescu
 Live At Bazillus by SONAR album cover Live, 2012
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Live At Bazillus
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Lewian

4 stars "Live at Bazillus" is my first encounter with Sonar, or let's say my first encounter after quickly sampling some of their material in order to decide what to buy first. This live record has three tracks from their debut "A Flaw of Nature" (note that the opener here is "Tromso" although this is erroneously omitted from the progarchives track list). This was the only album that appeared before this live release, but still some material that would appear only on later studio albums still existed at the time and is performed here. There are two tracks from their second album ("Static Motion" and "Tranceportantion") and one ("String Geometry") from the third one "Black Light". "Gordian Knot" is apparently exclusively here.

The music of Sonar is in my opinion better classified as "Post Rock/Math Rock" than as RIO/Avant. All is instrumental, and all songs are very rhythm oriented, slow to mid tempo, make ample use of odd time signatures, and build up mostly smoothly and slowly. The listener is fairly safe from sudden shocks and contrasts and also from sound experiments; we're up for a pretty plain and solid drums/bass/guitar/guitar landscape. For the right type of person this will be a quite comfortable experience; there is no reason to call this "avantgarde" at all.

I went for the live album because the rendering of the music is quite dynamic and lively here, but still the sound is almost impeccable. It deviates only in ways from the studio sound that I like, it's somewhat more rough, pure and earthly, which serves their music well. Venue and audience seem quite small and in this respect we are only very shyly reminded at times that this is a live recording.

The music is somewhat repetitive and based mainly on rhythmic patterns with variable dynamic, although these change occasionally. All is teamwork, there are hardly any solos; one could even deny the existence of composed melodies. It mixes the appeal of minimal music with a rock approach to the instruments and could as such be seen as archetypical post rock; the time signatures and the obvious attention to precision make it more math rock.

Overall this is very elegant, atmospheric and convincing and I like it a lot. I don't give it 5 stars because one can criticise this as a bit too uniform; of course if you're in the mood for this kind of thing, you may be quite happy about the fact that they go for it from beginning to end without flinching.

 Black Light by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.29 | 20 ratings

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Black Light
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars SONAR are back with a new album that was released in October of 2015. This Swiss band was influenced by KING CRIMSON, Steve Reich, Nik Bartsch and others. If there ever was a band who should be under Math Rock it's these guys. The guitarists and bass player tune their instruments to the tritones so the music is fairly dark along with being minimalistic and complex. For the first time they brought in someone from outside the band to produce and record this album. That would be David Bottrill who recorded it in Zurich before mixing this record in Toronto. Bottrill has worked with TOOL, RUSH, DT, KING CRIMSON and many others. This was recorded live in studio with no overdubs.

"Enneagram" opens with some experimental sounds and it stays minimalistic until it starts to pick up with guitar. This is minimalistic and precise and it sounds really good. "Black Light" does have a "Larks Tongues In Aspic II" vibe according to guitarist Stephan Thelan. It opens with guitar which is the focus for the most part. "Orbit 5.7" is my favourite. I just like the music in relation to the title of this song as it does feel like we are out in deep space. Check it out 3 minutes in as it turns minimalistic and dark. I also dig the sound 5 1/2 minutes in and how it builds 7 minutes in.

"Angular Momentum" is very laid back to start but it becomes even more so 3 minutes in then it builds before it becomes very relaxed again before building again late. "String Geometry" has this repetitive, minimalistic sound to it although I much prefer when it turns fuller 3 minutes in. "Critical Mass" is the closer and longest tune at 10 1/2 minutes. It starts off with some passion before settling right down then building. The opening sound is back after 4 1/2 minutes. It's very mellow before 8 minutes to the end.

I do prefer this one to the last one but not by a lot. Both are solid 4 star albums in my opinion. I just get lost in this album even if Math Rock is not a sub-genre i'm big into.

 Static Motion by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.01 | 26 ratings

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Static Motion
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

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.

 A Flaw Of Nature by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.06 | 15 ratings

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A Flaw Of Nature
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Nightmarish and lurid, clockwork post-minimal Rock/Jazz (in opposition?).

"A Flaw Of Nature", 2012, Swiss band Sonar's first release, is both charged with minimal intensity as the magnified one. In a context of perfectly threaded songs that revolve between mere "full-sound" minimalistic musical abstractions and what we all call "constructed" songs.

Their "dark" nature, probably sets them closer to let's say Universe Zero than the Cardiacs. Their musical proposal is by far more difficult to explain. So maybe the Jazz references could come in quiet handy. Modern Jazz disarticulated the structures of their predecessors by means of incorporating spontaneous improvisation to already fixed "parameters".

This styling could hardly had been passed by unnoticed, by close to RiO/AV founders and courts. So modern Jazz has a clear and intimate closeness to this sub-genre, I mean John Coltrane's later works could be included as if today!

SONAR's first release does exactly that! It disarticulates the complexities, so dear to the RiO/AV crowd, and undresses them to full light. Like a symbol not an alphabet!

It is clean, obscure, straight forward, daring, minimal, hypnotic, attractive and unpretentious. Yet worked out close to clockwork-like perfection!

Therefore again, I address the Post/Math rock or modern Jazz audiophiles, more than the RiO/AV's average crowd.

****4 "not only a promise but a whole new proposal" PA stars!

Thanks to holymoly for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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