Sonar — Static Motion
(Cuneiform Rune 374, 2014, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2014-01-02It seems like only a few weeks ago I was reviewing Sonar’s previous album A Flaw of Nature, and much of that same feeling is coming back to me now as I review this one, underscoring the Swiss based ensemble’s unique style based on self-imposed limitations, restrictions and intentful pursuit of minimalism. First and foremost are the tritones that both guitarists and bass have tuned their strings to: only C or F# are allowed within Sonar’s world. Second, this is not really rock, not jazz either; in reality it’s deft ensemble work based on crafty instrumental interplay, with little room for any flashy soloing. The two guitarists (Bernhard Wagner and Stephan Thelen, the latter also composer and bandleader) are continually playing off one another’s complex mathematical musings as they move forward, growing the sound from sparse interactions on open-string harmonics to more powerful full-on electrified passages, and back again. The compositions are very natural and open, and almost seem like well-rehearsed improvisations where some strict parameters are set, and then the four players follow through on it. But the responsive way that the bass and drums flow and ebb the depth of the sound and manage the fragmentary minimalist approach throughout most of this belies any notions of pure improvisation. Occasionally, as on the closer “Vertical Time,” there are some lengthy passages of dark ambiance that add to the overall mysteriousness. Occasionally, one might be reminded of magical moments on the many great albums by Philharmonie. One thing that needs to be said, however: this is a long album, clocking in at just under 70 minutes, and given the ensemble’s confinements, the nine pieces do get samey after a while. While listening, I occasionally wonder what an additional lead instrument, like a sax or violin, could contribute to their sound. The skeletal minimalism which is one of the beauties of Sonar’s craft would of course be lost, but the occasional interception of a melodic lead instrument might add something worthwhile to the mix of ideas. All taken though, this is another excellent adventure from the first note to the last.
Related artist(s): Sonar
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more