Review of Vortex, Sonar with David Torn, Rare NoiseRecords, 2018
Very interesting. I didn’t know the Swiss quartet Sonar, but I am very pleased to have made their acquaintance because of my passion for the guitar strategies of David Torn. I went to browse on the Sonar website and I found this biography: “The group SONAR was born in 2010. The two Zürich-based guitarists Stephan and Bernhard met one evening when Stephan was playing and Bernhard was in the audience. They immediately found that they shared many common interests, so it wasn’t long before they started playing together. They key idea for the musical concept came, when Stephan remembered that he once tuned his guitar in tritones in order to perform a piece that otherwise would have been technically impossible to play. They found that the natural harmonics of this tuning had a very unique, mystic sound quality. ….Knowing that Sonar needed a very deep bass sound to counterbalance the high-pitched guitar harmonics, Stephan invited his friend Christian Kuntner from Radio Osaka, a band they had both played in. Bernhard had met a young drummer, Manuel Pasquinelli, at one of Nik Bärtsch’s workshops, thinking that he would be the perfect drummer to play the polymetric beats that they were imagining….After about half a year of rehearsals, Sonar played a few concerts in Switzerland and went straight to the studio to record « A Flaw of Nature », an album that was released in 2012 on Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin Rhythm Records label. Thanks to Nik’s connections around the globe, Steve Feigenbaum, head of Cuneiform Records (USA) became aware of Sonar and eventually signed them to his label. Thanks to the wide distributional net of Cuneiform, Sonar’s 2014 album « Static Motion » and their 2015 follow-up « Black Light » (produced by David Bottrill) led to international acclaim, dozens of excellent reviews and concerts in the USA, UK, Germany, France, Austria, Rumania and (in 2017) Japan.”
An encounter between two different musical visions: on one side the mathematician, rigorous, disciplined, geometric Swiss quartet, on the other hand a guitarists characterized by a style that is as free and whimsical as ever, always at ease in moving between different musical genres . The result is this Vortex, a mathematical, precise, polyrhythmic and “disciplined” musical vortex in which Torn’s guitar has however been able to find its place giving a significant added value in terms of sonorous and musical freshness. Attention: Vortex is not a particularly innovative record, its structures recall the geometry of King Crimson and the math rock of other groups that have made this trademark rigor as theri stylistic musical architecture. But: Vortex is a disc that involves and doesn’t make you tired, perhaps because of the excellent understanding reached between the two musical protagonists and the skilful work of musical production played by Torn himself. Vortex is a balanced and excellently crafted disc. You will fall in love with it, listening to it you will discover that mathematics and inspiration are not incompatible and that they can happily walk arm in arm together. Could this the beginning of a new evolutionary branch for instrumental and experimental progressive rock?