Mike Bearpark's review of the SONAR concert at the Vortex in London (30 April 2013).
First impression - that while I'm reminded of other musics, the SONAR sound isn't a patchwork:
everything's fused together like glass. Clearest for me is a thread running from 50s/60s
guitar instrumentals like The Shadows to 70s/80s King Crimson. Surf music from a mountain
country - echoes of Dick Dale, and the power of a clean Fender guitar and amp with reverb.
Beautifully disturbed clockwork! If ECM signed a punk band, it'd be SONAR...
I played the track Flaw of Nature on Phoenix FM's 'Interesting Alternative' show
Monday night, and it was a big hit with presenter Kavus Torabi. While there's the
echoey cymbals and space between guitars, the bass is huge and warm, contrasting
with the cold, and this coupled with the effortless polyrhythms draws the listener in.
For a music that could be very cerebral, it has a warmth that communicates... part of
this must be the Funk: Jungian compensation at work! It means to come out somehow;
just as the occasional hint of distortion gives the machine music an extra human edge and
power. (That bright solid state crunch, so central to much New Wave / Post Punk: Banshees / Cure / ...)
There's a discipline in counting, but counting isn't enough - very much the
Guitar Craft ideal of being there with attention to the now. It's meditational.
Compared to some of the early acoustic Guitar Craft releases, SONAR has a very
distinct sound world - and we hear what we want to hear in it! Maybe I hear John
Wetton in the bass, but that doesn't mean it was put there...or the Discipline-era
Crimson guitar / drum interaction, the angular Talking Heads / League of Gentlemen.
Pointillistic rock! Endless permutations... in the parts played, but also in the pairs
that interact, and I smile when everything snaps together and takes off.
That separate sound world suggests a comparison with Christian Vander's Magma:
when what sounds like free improvisation locks into precise whole-band riffing. And you
have to experience it live for the full effect, with volume - to hear a beat combo
unlike any other. Imagine Glenn Branca's guitar orchestra through the wrong end of a telescope.
What a way to commemorate International Jazz Day. SONAR have found a special
key, and a small part of London is opened up on the way.
Mike Bearpark 1 May 2013