Sonar With David Torn

Tranceportation (Volume 1)

The Swiss quartet Sonar already had established a unique, high-tech art-rock sound before teaming up with experimental guitarist and electronic musician David Torn.

Sonar’s music has a lot in common with fellow Swiss native Nik Bärtsch. In fact, its debut album, and a 2017 collaboration with guitarist Markus Reuter, appeared on the keyboardist’s Ronin Rhythm label. And like Bärtsch’s group Ronin, Sonar traffics in minimal, looping riffs and precise, cell-based rhythms that build almost imperceptibly to peaks of surprising intensity. But while his music seems to be at its core a fiercely abstracted form of jazz-funk, stripping away flourishes until nothing remains but evocative chords locked to a grid, Sonar are more willing to rock out. The band often seems to be conducting a semiotic interrogation of “the riff,” with Manuel Pasquinelli’s concussive drums functioning as the element that keeps the music anchored to the floor. And Christian Kuntner’s tritone bass is a massive rumble at the core of the nearly 15-minute album opener, “Labyrinth,” a tune that at times sounds as if it could be a song by Norwegian psychedelic explorers Motorpsycho.

Torn, a longtime fan of using high technology to make disturbing noises, is out front throughout, soloing in a way that recalls Adrian Belew’s work with King Crimson, with a side of post-metal, not unlike Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil. His playing on the relatively mellow “Red Sky” is like a coil of razor wire slowly rolling out across a desert landscape at dusk.

Tranceportation—its sequel expected in May—balances structure and freedom in ways that make headbanging feel like an act of Zen discipline.

On Sale Now
May 2024
Stefon Harris
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