Sonar: Static Motion

Twinkling tritone harmonics! Palindromic clusters! Swiss precision!

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This Swiss quintet waste little time setting out their stall on their second album. Derived from composer Stephan Thelen, Bernard Wagner (guitars), Christian Kuntner (bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums), tracks such as Continuum and Shadowplay have a deceptive intensity, evincing a zero tolerance policy when it comes to anything approaching flabby soloing.

Consisting mostly of twinkling tritone harmonics deployed in palindromic clusters and formations that sparkle and beguile, each player maintains an exacting precision on their parts while enjoying freedom to improvise within this framework. Not a single note is out of place during these nine tunes.

Unbelievably taut, and unyieldingly direct (as with Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, another Swiss-based outfit) the excitement resides in rhythmic displacement and resulting tension. It’s far from being a cerebral exercise: Thelan has seeded the assembled pieces with wry quotes from the likes of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson and ELP, scattering them like so many Easter Egg bonus features.

Had MC Escher made music instead of drawing impossible and perplexing perspectives, it would likely sound like Sonar.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.