The Swiss quartet SONAR has quickly gained an international reputation for creating a unique blend of forward-thinking instrumental music imbued with power, tension and emotional identity. With their slow-build approach to dramaturgy and avoidance of conventional forms, they focus on collective group efforts and a deeper kind of interaction amongst their members Stephan Thelen (guitar), Bernhard Wagner (guitar), Christian Kuntner (electric bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums).
For their internationally acclaimed fourth album “Vortex” (RareNoiseRecords), Sonar made an unexpected move by adding the expressive, experimental and deeply emotional playing of US guitarist and producer David Torn to their precise and disciplined polyrhythmic groove tapestry, thus adding the yin to their yang.
For this new vinyl release, legendary producer, remixer and bass guitarist Bill Laswell remixed and reconstructed two tracks from “Vortex”, also adding electronics and his signature bass guitar.
How did this (again unexpected and unlikely) collaboration happen? Sonar’s guitarist and composer Stephan Thelen tells the story: “My friend and music journalist Anil Prasad wrote an e-mail telling me that he was meeting Bill Laswell for dinner and wondered if I would want him to ask if Bill would be willing to do two Sonar remixes. Since Bill has always been one of my favorite musicians, I of course said yes. Then things went really fast. Bill agreed to do it, but he wanted to do them soon, because his schedule was about to get very tight. I talked to the band, we decided which two pieces Bill should remix and then sent the multitracks to James Dellatacoma, Bill’s engineer. Exactly 9 days after Anil’s e-mail, we had two stunning remixes in our dropbox.”
In Anil’s words, this is a “Zürich-New York sonic summit where minimalist groove meets maximum dub.”
Swiss music ensemble Sonar will be releasing their new live album “Live At Moods” with guest soloist/texturalist David Torn on November 16, 2018 on 7d Media. It was recorded live at Moods Jazz Club in Zürich, Switzerland, on May 24th 2018.
Fusing a rigorous minimal concept with the power of a rock band and the sensitivity of a jazz combo, Sonar have quickly gained international reputation for creating a unique blend of music. With their slow-build approach to dramaturgy and avoidance of conventional forms, they focus on collective group efforts and a deeper kind of interaction amongst their members Stephan Thelen (guitar), Bernhard Wagner (guitar), Christian Kuntner (electric bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums). Sonar’s music is complex but still visceral, hypnotic but still dynamic. The ground feels as though it’s continuously shifting beneath your feet in opposing directions as multiple motifs and rhythms flit about your head, circulating in different orbits.
Sonar was formed in late 2010 and has been on tour in the USA, UK, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, France, Romania, Liechtenstein and Austria. In 2012, they released their first CD A Flaw of Nature on Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin Rhythm Records label. Cuneiform Records released their second full-length CD Static Motion in 2014. Their third album Black Light was recorded and mixed by Peter Gabriel and Tool producer David Bottrill and released by Cuneiform in 2015 on CD and vinyl.
For their 4th full-length studio album Vortex, Sonar invited producer, guitarist and film-composer 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. David Torn is regarded by many as one of the most influential electronic guitarists of our time. He’s worked with many well-known musicians including David Bowie, Madonna (also co-writing), Tim Berne, Jan Garbarek, The Pineapple Thief, Jeff Beck (Grammy-winning production of “Jeff”), Kit Taylor, Mick Karn, David Sylvian, Craig Taborn, Tony Levin, Meshell Ndegeocello, Bill Bruford, Don Cherry, John Legend, Laurie Anderson, k.d. lang, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Matt Mitchell, Tori Amos, Kaki King, Donna Lewis etc.
The stylistic blending of Sonar’s precisely structured, polyrhythmic rock music and David Torn’s freely improvised, raw and emotional guitar interjections – a trademark of Vortex – is now continued in a live context on the six tracks of the Live at Moods album. There are three pieces from Vortex (“Waves and Particles”, “Red Shift” and “Lookface!”), a piece from Static Motion called “Twofold Covering” (the title of the track refers to the fact that the main bass riff of the piece is exactly the same as the guitar riff, just played half as fast and two octaves lower), a completely improvised David Torn solo piece called “For Lost Sailors” and “Tromsø”, a piece that Sonar played without David Torn. “Tromsø” is one of the first pieces that Sonar rehearsed together and it is the first track on the band’s first album A Flaw of Nature. As a composition, it is a very minimal and austere piece that consists of only six small fragments in 9/8, but it remains one of Sonar’s most dramatic and dynamic pieces.
Watch Sonar’s video for “Twofold Covering”:
01 TWOFOLD COVERING 12:37
02 WAVES & PARTICLES 7:43
03 RED SHIFT 10:03
04 TROMSØ (SONAR) 10:23
05 FOR LOST SAILORS (DAVID TORN) 10:18
06 LOOKFACE! 5:22
Recorded live at Moods Jazz Club, Zürich, May 24, 2018
David Torn: Electric Guitar & Live Looping
Stephan Thelen: Tritone Guitar
Bernhard Wagner: Tritone Guitar
Christian Kuntner: Tritone Bass
Manuel Pasquinelli: Drums
Edited & Mixed by Stephen Thelen except “For Lost Sailors” Edited & Mixed by David Torn
All tracks written by Stephan Thelen except:
“For Lost Sailors” written by David Torn
“Lookface!” written by Stephan Thelen, Bernhard Wagner, Christian Kuntner, Manuel Pasquinelli & David Torn
Cover photograph by Tim Berne, Band photo by Joel Gilardini
Special Thanks to Nicole Grau, Trey Gunn, Anil Prasad & The Moods Team
David Torn appears courtesy of ECM Records
Here’s what the press has said about Sonar:
“Sonar, Swiss masters of multi-rhythm tritone minimalism, continue their career-long quest for a state of grace with Vortex, an album made with American impressionist guitar slinger David Torn, a combination of opposites that compliments one another marvellously on a scintillating journey into the abyss.” (Roger Trenwith, The Progressive Aspect)
“Torn’s blasts, arches, and suspensions decisively enrich the sound of the quartet. Their mutual fascination for sonic textures is contagious, and I found myself exploring every minute of this well-weaved tapestry of polyrhythmic rock lustiness and groovy backgrounds. Vortex is a masterstroke that treats sound with prestige.” (Felipe Freitag, JazzTrail)
“One listen to even just a minute or two from Vortex and it becomes crystal clear that, in the 21st century, few groups have emerged as incomparable, innovative and imaginative as Sonar.” (John Kelman, All About Jazz)
“The combination of two seemingly disparate and distinct musical styles can often be an abject failure, or surprisingly may occasionally create an unexpected delight. In the case of Sonar’s Vortex, the band’s polyrhythmic math rock style has been mixed and melded with David Torn’s exquisite tones and expressive, improvised guitar interjections to create something that is rarely unappealing, but is frequently magnificent.” (Owen Davies, dprp.net)
“Sonar is life at ground level; Torn is the weather. Their interaction feels at once organic and bifurcated. The aptly named title track could be a 10-minute sonic simulation of a tornado moving through a town…Torn add(s) a sunset-like brilliance to the already translucent beauty of Sonar’s tuneful math.” (Britt Robson, The Jazz Times)
“Torn explodes chords into millisecond shards and sustains single notes through eons of emotion in rhythmically complex multipart compositions that sound unlike anything else in rock.” (Richard Gehr, Relix)
“Why else did I, one day, play this mesmeric album continuously, seven or eight times straight through? Is it rock or is it jazz – and, who cares? It”s brilliant.” (Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal)
“An anti-hero’s masterpiece … a revolutionary shot across the bow … Sonar has defied the norm by crafting something singular and magical.” (Jeff Miers, Static Motion review, The Buffalo News)
“Flor De Loto has continued to grow as a musical entity, which means that thanks to them, Peru’s progressive scene remains an interesting point of reference regarding the healthy state of the affairs for current progressive rock around the globe.”
– Cesar Inca, Progarchives.com
Hailing from Lima, Peru, FLOR DE LOTO began in 1998. However it was years later before the band released their eponymous debut. Taking more than six months to record, Flor De Loto was a great success and is regarded by many as one of the best Latin American prog albums of 2005. Since then, the band has become the most well-known proponent of progressive rock from Peru. Often compared to Jethro Tull because of their flute/rock mix, their style also encompasses fusion, psyche, metal, folk (particularly Andean folk music) and film music.
ProgDay is happy to present FLOR DE LOTO for their first performance in the United States.
“…a revolutionary shot across the bow for what we might consider to be the possibilities of modern day guitar music… With so many forms of contemporary music seemingly satisfied to simply regurgitate weary and weathered tropes, Sonar has defied the norm by crafting something singular and magical.”
– Jeff Miers,The Buffalo News
SONAR is a avant-progressive, post-minimal band from Switzerland. Fusing a rigorous minimal esthetic with the power of a rock band, SONAR creates sonic rituals unlike anything you have ever heard before. While pointing to King Crimson, the compositional rigor of Nik Bärtsch, and minimalist composer Steve Reich as some of the band’s more obvious touchstones, the music comes out of the gate sounding like none of them. At a time when most guitarists are measured in notes per second, SONAR is, instead, the meeting place of rigorously considered writing, collective restraint, and a sound instantly recognizable as much for what is not there as for what is.
The band’s new release, Vortex, produced by David Torn, is scheduled to be available at ProgDay 2017.
“Light at the Endless Tunnel takes the listener into a wide-range of directions, blending the familiar with unexpected Middle Eastern elements, Indian vocal percussion, soul and lots more. The band features extremely talented musicians who showcase their talent with looped guitars, creative bass lines, imaginative drum patters, Ethiopian scales, spectacular guitar solos, exquisite keyboard ambience, epic intensity, and Canterbury-ish keyboards… In other words, state of the art progressive rock… Every year, there is at least one progressive music act that stands out from the rest and iNFiNiEN is undoubtedly one of the best. This is one of the progressive rock gems of the past few months. Highly recommended.”
– Angel Romero, ProgressiveRockCentral.com
Philadelphia-born iNFiNiEN combines eclectic musical personalities into a visionary, unified force. Using rock, jazz, soul, world, and classical influences, the band plays intricately composed songs with a focus on the exploration of new territories of sound by using exotic scales, chords, and rhythms. A centerpiece of the band’s sound is the expressive voice of Chrissie Loftus, whose evocative and emotional vocals provide the lyrical glue that binds the widely-ranging compositions together. The band has hit a new peak with their latest release, Light At The Endless Tunnel, which found it’s way onto many “Best Of The Year” lists for 2016.
Join FLOR DE LOTO (Peru), SONAR (Switzerland) and iNFiNiEN (US) for the twenty-third edition of ProgDay. ProgDay 2017 will take place on Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For more information, please visit us at www.progday.net.
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