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Sonar with David Torn and J. Peter Schwalm — Three Movements
(Bandcamp no#, 2023, CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-07-05

Three Movements Cover art

It’s been a while, and I was beginning to wonder… Whatever happened to Sonar? The two albums of the Tranceportation series have been with us since 2019 and 2020, meanwhile we’ve seen a lot of recordings with de-facto bandleader Stephan Thelen emerge during the interim, more in his Fractal Guitar series as well as Keys, Mallets & Reeds, plus collaborations with Jon Durant, Kronos Quartet, J. Peter Schwalm, and more — all excellent releases, mind you. Three Movements marks Sonar’s return to form, three movements of a longer conceptual piece; think of it like a symphony of odd-meter syncopated grooves and improvised textures. Along with the four regular members of Sonar (drummer Manuel Pasquinelli, guitarists Bernhard Wagner and Stephan Thelen, and bassist Christian Kuntner), we have David Torn on guitar and live looping, and J.Peter Schwalm on electronics, effectively making this the work of a six-piece unit, even though the parts were not all recorded at the same time or in the same studio. Even Barry Cleveland contributes some samples, and with Markus Reuter and Benjamin Schäfer at the mixing desk, this 42-minute spectacular goes a long way to matching or even exceeding any of the band’s best work. Every play reveals something new that the listener perhaps hadn’t noticed previously, whether it be soaring guitar duels, strange shifts in the sonic fabric, the masterful execution of tireless grooves, or the whirring electronic undercurrents, there’s a lot of immersive sounds here that a listener can get lost within. The textures are dense and incorporate many layers, partly composed and partly of an ongoing improvisation that’s constantly turning, shifting, and twisting under a fractured midnight sky, pushing and pulling, from high intensity blasts to more calmer spectral regions. Three Movements offers an astonishing and truly immersive experience.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): David Torn, Sonar, J. Peter Schwalm, Stephan Thelen

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