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SONAR

RIO/Avant-Prog • Switzerland


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Sonar biography
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. They are probably closest in aesthetic to Brandt Brauer Frick and Nik Bartsch Ronin due to their minimalist sound though they play with much more of a rock feel than either of those bands. You'll hear elements of King Crimson & Present. Their sound is uniquely recognizable due to the tuning of the guitars and the bass guitar to tritones (C / F# / C / F# / C / F#).They play highly repetitive layered polyrhythms that move in and out of synch through out the pieces. For such complex layering they play with a stripped down lack of technology with a straight forward 2 guitars, bass, and drums. This is a band to take you to a trance like state with the endless groove.

To date Sonar have released two studio albums, a live album and an EP, the most recent of which is on that bastion of experimental music Cuneiform Records

A Flaw Of Nature
Skeleton Groove (EP)
Live At Bazillus (Live)
Static Motion

Sonar are:-
Stephan Thelen: guitar
Bernhard Wagner: guitar
Christian Kuntner: bass guitar
Manuel Pasquinelli: drums

-- Nogbad_the_Bad (Ian)

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Buy SONAR Music


Black LightBlack Light
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2017
Audio CD$11.97
$4.95 (used)
Static MotionStatic Motion
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2014
Audio CD$13.83
$10.28 (used)
Flaw of NatureFlaw of Nature
Import
Imports 2012
Audio CD$12.91
$12.90 (used)
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SONAR discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SONAR top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.96 | 9 ratings
A Flaw Of Nature
2012
3.96 | 22 ratings
Static Motion
2014
4.33 | 11 ratings
Black Light
2015

SONAR Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Live At Bazillus
2012

SONAR Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SONAR Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

SONAR Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Skeleton Groove
2012

SONAR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Black Light by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.33 | 11 ratings

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Black Light
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by dion

5 stars SONOR ARCHITECTURES SONAR is an encryption standing for "SONic ARchitecture", and their music, of an unique simplicity and magic, hypnotic and obsessive, is like defining deconstructions and reconstructions of a lost kenopsystical city resembling the paintings of deChirico. The sonar fluid embraces you and set you over with it on visual dreaming phantasms. The sound rhythmical substance, working precisely like a Swiss watch, become reductive to an essence minimalism molded with fine refinement. The two guitar players in the group formula (Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner), we could expect at a demonstration of virtuosity, at passionate fast speed dialogues with notes tighten tumultuous together as in the ubiquitous rock tradition. Backed up by Christian Kuntner (bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums), the two guitar players builds up the dialogue in complementary in which each resonates together in unwonted and fascinating sound landscapes. The result is a rigorous build up symbiosis which thought to essence in complex polyphonies. The music of SONAR is a retrospection in the intuitive expressionism of Stockhausen, with stylistic nuances which can be associated with the music of Robert Fripp, Nik Bärtsch Ronin or Steve Reich. Founded in 2010 in the underground clubs of Zürich, the group SONAR shapes itself an unique place in the contemporary progressive music, all their albums being downright perfect. The uncanny atmosphere streaming out of the sound, so unique but so recognizable, is maybe due as well to the way as the members of the group tune up their instruments in the three-tonic module (C / F# / C / F# / C / F#), a specific feature to be found in the primitive ? tribal or ritualistic of "Maori", "Vedic" or "Herranza" music. Simple by appearance, complex by the structure of the polyphonic layer lines which overlaps in rhythmical asymmetries, the sound product is eluding the easy ways and stereotypes of the conventional compositions. The eccentricity of the SONAR sound it's not a researched one, but an undisguised vision of the idiosyncratic sound aesthetics the members of the group share together. The last SONIC album, "Black Light" from 2015, chronological their fourth, was recorded live in the studio, without any additions at editing. This technical element of recording creates in whole an organized (oxymoronic) spontaneous state of mind, as well as an emotion of a genuine kind. "Ennergram", the tune that opens the album, lines up the generic approach of the mathematical sound of the entire album. From the very first accords touches of the "Black Light" tune, we can recognize the atmospheric influence of the "Lark's Tongues In Aspic" (King Crimson) tune, theme which SONAR group is dressing it up and takes it over to a novel sonic spatiality. Already being placed on this orbit of travelling space landscapes, the follow up "Orbit 5.7" is a melodic geometry delineating even more the rhythmic mathematics in "Enneagram". The repetitive rhythmic sequence of "Angular Momentum" is inducing a psychedelic trance. "Stri Geometry" is a melodic geometry build up on contretemps measures. The last recorded tune in the studio, "Critical Mass" is the most intricate and "nervous" tune on the album. The album wraps up with two live bonus tracks: "Twofold Covering" and "Tromsö" which rounds out and emphasize this exceptional production. Listening to the album "Black Light" is a real and surprisingly pleasant experience for which I give 5 stars without hesitation ! Daniel Ionescu
 Live At Bazillus by SONAR album cover Live, 2012
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Live At Bazillus
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Lewian

— First review of this album —
4 stars "Live at Bazillus" is my first encounter with Sonar, or let's say my first encounter after quickly sampling some of their material in order to decide what to buy first. This live record has three tracks from their debut "A Flaw of Nature" (note that the opener here is "Tromso" although this is erroneously omitted from the progarchives track list). This was the only album that appeared before this live release, but still some material that would appear only on later studio albums still existed at the time and is performed here. There are two tracks from their second album ("Static Motion" and "Tranceportantion") and one ("String Geometry") from the third one "Black Light". "Gordian Knot" is apparently exclusively here.

The music of Sonar is in my opinion better classified as "Post Rock/Math Rock" than as RIO/Avant. All is instrumental, and all songs are very rhythm oriented, slow to mid tempo, make ample use of odd time signatures, and build up mostly smoothly and slowly. The listener is fairly safe from sudden shocks and contrasts and also from sound experiments; we're up for a pretty plain and solid drums/bass/guitar/guitar landscape. For the right type of person this will be a quite comfortable experience; there is no reason to call this "avantgarde" at all.

I went for the live album because the rendering of the music is quite dynamic and lively here, but still the sound is almost impeccable. It deviates only in ways from the studio sound that I like, it's somewhat more rough, pure and earthly, which serves their music well. Venue and audience seem quite small and in this respect we are only very shyly reminded at times that this is a live recording.

The music is somewhat repetitive and based mainly on rhythmic patterns with variable dynamic, although these change occasionally. All is teamwork, there are hardly any solos; one could even deny the existence of composed melodies. It mixes the appeal of minimal music with a rock approach to the instruments and could as such be seen as archetypical post rock; the time signatures and the obvious attention to precision make it more math rock.

Overall this is very elegant, atmospheric and convincing and I like it a lot. I don't give it 5 stars because one can criticise this as a bit too uniform; of course if you're in the mood for this kind of thing, you may be quite happy about the fact that they go for it from beginning to end without flinching.

 Black Light by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.33 | 11 ratings

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Black Light
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars SONAR are back with a new album that was released in October of 2015. This Swiss band was influenced by KING CRIMSON, Steve Reich, Nik Bartsch and others. If there ever was a band who should be under Math Rock it's these guys. The guitarists and bass player tune their instruments to the tritones so the music is fairly dark along with being minimalistic and complex. For the first time they brought in someone from outside the band to produce and record this album. That would be David Bottrill who recorded it in Zurich before mixing this record in Toronto. Bottrill has worked with TOOL, RUSH, DT, KING CRIMSON and many others. This was recorded live in studio with no overdubs.

"Enneagram" opens with some experimental sounds and it stays minimalistic until it starts to pick up with guitar. This is minimalistic and precise and it sounds really good. "Black Light" does have a "Larks Tongues In Aspic II" vibe according to guitarist Stephan Thelan. It opens with guitar which is the focus for the most part. "Orbit 5.7" is my favourite. I just like the music in relation to the title of this song as it does feel like we are out in deep space. Check it out 3 minutes in as it turns minimalistic and dark. I also dig the sound 5 1/2 minutes in and how it builds 7 minutes in.

"Angular Momentum" is very laid back to start but it becomes even more so 3 minutes in then it builds before it becomes very relaxed again before building again late. "String Geometry" has this repetitive, minimalistic sound to it although I much prefer when it turns fuller 3 minutes in. "Critical Mass" is the closer and longest tune at 10 1/2 minutes. It starts off with some passion before settling right down then building. The opening sound is back after 4 1/2 minutes. It's very mellow before 8 minutes to the end.

I do prefer this one to the last one but not by a lot. Both are solid 4 star albums in my opinion. I just get lost in this album even if Math Rock is not a sub-genre i'm big into.

 Static Motion by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.96 | 22 ratings

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Static Motion
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Swiss band SONAR got their name from the SONic ARchitecture they create which is polymetric and highly structured. The two guitars and bass are tuned to the tritones which gives this album a dark mood throughout. We get two guitarists a bass player and drummer. This is Math Rock for sure yet with a twist I guess you could say. KING CRIMSON certainly came to mind with how precise and complex this is. It was recorded live in studio at Ocean Sound Recordings in Norway with very little done to it afterwards except some reverb. Someone stated that the music gives the impression of moving yet it makes no progress. Nik Bartsch said "Once you are in SONAR's sound world you won't want to leave" and for me this was very true. I usually complain about 70 minute albums but for a minimalistic recording at that length the time always flies by, very strange other than I love this style of instrumental music.

I won't say much on each track but first up is "Static Motion" the title track that some compare to being a cross between "Fracture" and "Meeting Of The Spirits". Atmosphere to start as the drums rumble in and out. Picked guitar after a minute and a second one joins in. It settles in around 2 minutes with drums and bass. This is so good! A calm 3 1/2 minutes in. "Twofold Covering" is one of my favourites. I just adore this minimalistic stuff that is so dark and precise. "Landslide" is another track that is dark with intricate sounds throughout.

"Shadow Play" is another highlight for me. It has this "Lost In Space" vibe to it. "Triptych" has one of the few breakout moments after 5 minutes when things pickup and turn fuller. "Continuum" continues with the same style although the guitars are almost playful 4 minutes in. "Tranceportation" is such a great title and yes it sounds like we are moving forwrd in a trance-like state. Nice bass after 3 minutes as well. "Zero Tolerance" is a little more intense than the other songs and I like each time the tension breaks. "Verticle Time" is spacey and is possibly the most minimalistic tune on here.

Man I dig this album yet I get the reasons some are less than thrilled with it. A solid 4 stars.

 A Flaw Of Nature by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.96 | 9 ratings

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A Flaw Of Nature
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Nightmarish and lurid, clockwork post-minimal Rock/Jazz (in opposition?).

"A Flaw Of Nature", 2012, Swiss band Sonar's first release, is both charged with minimal intensity as the magnified one. In a context of perfectly threaded songs that revolve between mere "full-sound" minimalistic musical abstractions and what we all call "constructed" songs.

Their "dark" nature, probably sets them closer to let's say Universe Zero than the Cardiacs. Their musical proposal is by far more difficult to explain. So maybe the Jazz references could come in quiet handy. Modern Jazz disarticulated the structures of their predecessors by means of incorporating spontaneous improvisation to already fixed "parameters".

This styling could hardly had been passed by unnoticed, by close to RiO/AV founders and courts. So modern Jazz has a clear and intimate closeness to this sub-genre, I mean John Coltrane's later works could be included as if today!

SONAR's first release does exactly that! It disarticulates the complexities, so dear to the RiO/AV crowd, and undresses them to full light. Like a symbol not an alphabet!

It is clean, obscure, straight forward, daring, minimal, hypnotic, attractive and unpretentious. Yet worked out close to clockwork-like perfection!

Therefore again, I address the Post/Math rock or modern Jazz audiophiles, more than the RiO/AV's average crowd.

****4 "not only a promise but a whole new proposal" PA stars!

 Static Motion by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.96 | 22 ratings

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Static Motion
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

4 stars If there is Post Rock/Math Rock, this should be Post Rock in Opposition/Math Jazz??

Clearly untaggable to none, but this Sonar (there is another band same name here in PA), which is found in the RiO/AV sub-genre, 2014 second album, "Static Motion", works like a swiss- clock when it comes to performance. And even better than that, they are full of musical-creativity, which moves their music towards unexpected territories.

These new "landscapes" are very far fom being the usual "freak-Jazz" / off-beat music, this category is usually flooded with. Opposite to that, these explorations find shelter in quiet hospitable environments, which not because of the same, lose their mysterious and hypnotic instrumental trance or value.

So, no screams, or untuned endless sax "thrills", or far-fetched pretentions. (These guys will wither in this category as such!). They are avant-garde because they have no fear of not being that!

Creative, tight musical sculptures, without any kind of paraphernalia or "novel" idiosincracies, set to slow-tempo intricate passages, which are threaded perfectly, by the sheer genius of its compositions, which by themselves have no need for artificial decorations. Performed with a basic 4 tight-piece unit, which has a very clear notion to where they are heading (or not) always.

Post/Rock/ Mathers, Electronics, Avant Gardes, Modern Jazz and maybe some RiO followers will have a bash with this one.

As for me, truly perfect, no single complaint! (in fact I am going to buy also their first album!)

****4 shimmering PA stars.

 Static Motion by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.96 | 22 ratings

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Static Motion
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Nogbad_The_Bad
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

4 stars Great new album from the Swiss minimalist rock band Sonar & their first on Cuneiform. Hopefully this will give them a broader audience particularly in North America. I struggle to fit them into a genre, which is often a good thing, as they have a pretty unique sound.

Their most obvious influences are probably Nik Bartsch's Ronin, Dawn Of Midi and Brandt Brauer Frick, all of whom show influences from Steve Reich and Phillip Glass' 20th century minimalism. Where they differ from these bands is with their rock edge. They are a two guitar, bass & drums straight setup which gives them a basic heavy edge.

All the tracks feature the locked in groove with overlapping patterns of tri-tone C & F# piling layer upon layer. This is music to disappear in as it takes you to a trance like space. Highly recommended for fans of minimalism & rock.

"...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

Thanks to holymoly for the artist addition.

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