Sonar — The Bill Laswell Mix Translations
(7d Media 1812, 2019, CD / DL)
Sonar with David Torn — Tranceportation (Volume 1)
(RareNoise RNR113, 2019, CD / LP / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2020-02-14
It could fairly be said that if you’ve heard one Sonar album, you’ve heard them all. Their basic idiom is quite fixed, with repeated grooves in varying meters topped by interlocking guitar parts, though they manage to eke out many variations on the theme. When they started working with David Torn on Vortex (2018), things changed a bit with the addition of highly textural wild-card guitar added into the fold. The Bill Laswell Mix Translations hands the tracks from Vortex over to master sound manipulator Bill Laswell, who gives us two lengthy tracks which might be said to give us a different view on the source material, the sonic equivalent of viewing the music through a new lens. It is still very much a Sonar album, and is eminently listenable in the same way as the original.
Given how well Vortex worked, and how well-received it was, it’s no surprise that Sonar and Torn decided to continue the partnership, and Tranceportation (Volume 1) is the result. And while it is instantly recognizable as Sonar, somehow they’ve managed to outdo themselves. Without substantially altering their modus operandi, the group has produced what may be their finest album yet. It’s a little hard to say exactly what sets this apart from the previous releases, but I would put the opening track, “Labyrinth,” in the top position of everything they’ve recorded. It’s fourteen and a half minutes of tight rhythms, minimalist repetition, and subtle atmospheres, all spiced up with a hefty dose of Tornsanity. “Partitions,” “Red Sky,” and “Tunnel Drive” present three more variations on the ideas presented, further evidence that this combination of musicians works quite well. Will I eventually tire of hearing Sonar do the Sonar thing? Maybe, but that point hasn’t been reached yet, and if the next one is as good as this one, probably not even then.
Harold Budd RIP – Harold Budd, one of pre-eminent American composers of avant-garde and minimalism, has died of complications from the coronavirus. Budd came to prominence in the 70s, championed by Brian Eno on his Obscure Records label, with music that blended academic minimalism with electric jazz and electronic music. Much of Budd's best known work was done in collaboration with other artists, including Eno, Daniel Lanois, Robin Guthrie, Andy Partridge, John Foxx, Jah Wobble, and many others. » Read more
Audion Is Back in Business – Our esteemed colleague Alan Freeman has restarted Audion Magazine after a seven year hiatus. The new incarnation is available online on their Bandcamp site. Audion's history goes back to 1984, and included 58 issues up to 2013. Issue #59 is available now, and #60 is in the works. » Read more
Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock (Part 2) Is in the Works – Zeitgeist Media, the people who have brought us the great series of documentary films chronicling the history of progressive rock, are working on the second installment of their examination of German music. Krautrock 2 will focus on artists from Münich such as Guru Guru, Amon Düül II, Xhol Caravan, Kraan, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Popol Vuh. » Read more
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more