"...Sonar's idiosyncratic sound world...once you are in, you don't want to leave..."
– Nik Bärtsch (pianist, composer and ECM recording artist)
"Had MC Escher made music instead of drawing his famously impossible and perplexing perspectives, it would sound like Sonar."
– Sid Smith, Prog Magazine
really fascinating blend of art-rock, groove-based minimalism and
abstract mathematical theory, all woven together to great effect"
– John Schaefer, host of New Sounds
"Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner are guitar heroes. Or
rather, the two, members of Swiss progressive/new music group Sonar,
are guitar anti-heroes, and the band’s new effort, “Static Motion,” is
a revolutionary shot across the bow for what we might consider to be
the possibilities of modern day guitar music. Thelen, Wagner, drummer
Manuel Pasquinelli, and bassist Christian Kuntner have crafted an
anti-hero’s masterpiece here, an album that radically reinvents
instrumental interplay in the (vaguely, at least) rock setting....With
so many forms of contemporary music seemingly satisfied to simply
regurgitate weary and weathered tropes, Sonar has defied the norm by
crafting something singular and magical."
– Jeff Miers, The Buffalo News
"Black Light is perfect an album and as fulfilling a musical experience as one could hope for. It creates chaos by being precise. I called it progressive Sufi music and believe it to be a gem that will energize and relax in equal measure. Sonar is the sound of progressive rock/jazz of the highest and most exquisite quality and Black Light is an album that will enrich the lives of people who listen to music rather than those who merely hear it." – ALBUM OF THE YEAR - 2015 [The Ear]
Far too many groups are described using the words "nobody sounds like them," but with Switzerland's Sonar,
it's a description of rare verisimilitude. At a time when most
guitarists' acumen is measured in notes per second, Sonar is, instead,
the confluence of rigorously considered writing, collective restraint,
and a sound instantly recognizable as much for what is not there as for
what is. A musical animal that manages to engage the mind while hitting
the heart and the feet (despite its disposition towards complex
polyrhythms), to call SONAR "instrumental rock" is unfairly
reductionist for a group whose purview extends beyond progressive rock
into contemporary classicism...certainly minimalism...a subtle taste of
jazz...and, on its latest album, Black Light, perhaps even a hint of surf music described by the group's primary composer, guitarist Stephan Thelen, as "Duane Eddy Meets Jackson Pollock."
Black Light also represents the first time Sonar has recorded with an outside producer in tow. And what a producer: David Bottrill,
whose work as a producer and/or engineer, in addition to Crimson, Peter
Gabriel and Tool, also includes time spent with Rush, Smashing Pumpkins
and Dream Theater. "The music is at once simple and complex," Bottrill
writes at his website, "polyrhythms over melodies over thunderous bass
and a drummer who can seem to split his own body in half to play in two
or more different meters at once." Recorded live in the studio with no
overdubs, Black Light is as in-the-moment as it gets and is a perfect representation of this band and what this band does!
Sonar is a progressive, post-minimal band from Switzerland. Their name stands for SONic ARchitecture, a name which alludes to their intention of creating polymetric and highly structured avant-rock. Static Motion is their second full-length release, and their first release outside of Switzerland.
Fusing a rigorous minimal esthetic with the power of a rock band, every note and rhythm is precisely composed and performed, all of which are designed to move you from one rhythmic and / or harmonic tension to the next. Sonar is the last word in a rock band that works by building their music out of blocks consisting of slowly rising and unfolding musical tension and relief. While you can hear elements of Sonar's sound in ensembles such as Glenn Branca, King Crimson, Pharaoh Overlord, Present, etc, ultimately, no one else sounds like this and Static Motion is a powerful and extraordinary listen!
Just about everything is different with Sonar: the sound, the harmonies, the rhythms, the whole musical concept. Their instantly recognizable sound is partly due to the special tuning of the guitars and the bass guitar to tritones (C / F# / C / F# / C / F#), an interval sometimes called the "devil in music" ("diabolus in musica").
A large proportion of their music is played using only the natural harmonics of these two notes, thereby creating a harmonically ambiguous musical microcosmos that the group calls "tritone harmonics" and that avoids conventional musical cliches. The group's rhythms are also highly unconventional and usually consist of layered polyrhythms and isorhythms in odd metres.
Sonar's music is always played
live without any sequencers, loops or computers, using a minimum amount
of equipment: 2 guitars, a bass guitar, 3 small amplifiers und a basic
drum kit. Nearly effect-free (with just a touch of reverb and tremolo
allowed), the band does this to keep the music as clear, direct and
immediate as possible. Sonar does not consider itself or operate as a
collection of soloists; rather, their efforts are oriented towards
collective efforts making the music more than the sum of the individual
parts of the players.