Our new CD 'Vortex', produced by and guest-starring David Torn, is now out on RareNoiseRecords. You can also get a copy on our Bandcamp page.
"A combination of opposites that compliment one another marvellously on a scintillating journey into the abyss" (The Progressive Aspect)
"One listen to even just a minute or two from Vortex and it becomes crystal clear that, in the 21st century, few groups have emerged as incomparable, innovative and imaginative as Sonar." (John Kelman, All About Jazz)
The CD release concert (with David Torn) was on May 24th 2018 at Moods Jazz Club in Zürich, Switzerland. Check out a very personal concert review by Alessandro E. Danti here
Check out a detailed interview with Stephan Thelen and David Torn on Anil Prasad's Innerviews website.
Here are some reviews of Vortex. For a full list of all (known) reviews, click here
John Kelman, Vortex Review, All About Jazz, May 12 2018.
Sid Smith, Prog Magazine Feature on Sonar with David Torn, April 3, 2018.
Marcello Nardi, Vortex Review, March 30, 2018
Giovanni Russonello, NY Times, *Red Shift* on the NY Times Playlist, March 31, 2018.
Felipe Freitas, Vortex Review, JazzTrail, March 28, 2018.
Siggy Zielinski, Vortex Review, Babyblaue Prog Reviews, March 28, 2018.
The Math Rock Times Vortex Review, March 26, 2018.
Roger Trenwith The Progressive Aspect, Vortex Review, March 19, 2018.
"Woo hoo! Listening to the first David Torn mixes of the forthcoming Sonar with David Torn album VORTEX. You’re all in for one hell of an album. This is one for the ages, people. The record will blow your socks off. Angular. Crunchy. Rocking. Swirling. Mental." (Anil Prasad, Innerviews, on facebook)
"They call themselves a "minimalist progressive groove band." I call them awesome." (Jeff Miers, The Buffalo News NY)
"This is the Yin and the Yang of music. From the beginning of this recording my jaw was on the ground, my eyes were pinned open like giant saucers and filled with tears of both joy & terror! This is hands down my favorite of 2018 and a true Desert Island disc and recording+ (Michael Inman, facebook)
The "Making of Vortex" Seven-Part Video Series:
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David Torn and Sonar's Stephan Thelen in Zürich after the last recording session for VORTEX. Photograph by D. James Goodwin.
- Thanks to all the great people who came to see and hear us on our Canada / USA Tour 2017.
24 August, Cafe Campus, MONTREAL CA (opening for STICK MEN)
25 August, Auditorium du Cegep Garneau, QUEBEC CITY CA (opening for STICK MEN)
27 August, The Garrison, TORONTO CA (opening for STICK MEN)
28 August, Reggie's Live, CHICAGO USA
31 August, BSP, KINGSTON USA (special guest: DAVID TORN)
2 September, ProgDay Festival, CHAPEL HILL USA (special guest: DAVID TORN)
- We had a fantastic tour of Japan that started April 17 in Kyoto and ended April 23 in Yokohama. (SONAR JAPAN TOUR )
- "Falling for Ascension" by Markus Reuter featuring SONAR and Tobias Reber now available on Bandcamp.
- Stay tuned and sign in to our NEWSLETTER !
SONAR -- the Minimal Groove Band
Besides being passionate musicians, SONAR’s four members Stephan Thelen (guitar), Bernhard Wagner (guitar), Christian Kuntner (electric bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums) have backgrounds as diverse as performance art, software engineering, and mathematics, all adding to the eclectic mix of influences that make up this truly unique band.
The group SONAR was born in 2010. The two Zürich-based guitarists Stephan and Bernhard met one evening when Stephan was playing and Bernhard was in the audience. They immediately found that they shared many common interests, so it wasn’t long before they started playing together.
They key idea for the musical concept came, when Stephan remembered that he once tuned his guitar in tritones in order to perform a piece that otherwise would have been technically impossible to play. They found that the natural harmonics of this tuning had a very unique, mystic sound quality.
The next step was also rather bold, at least for these two individuals, who had played extensively with effects and loops all their life: they decided to put away all their electronic gadgets and concentrate on the clean sound of an electric guitar.
Further decisions were to radically concentrate on polyrhythms and isorhythms and to avoid intentional virtuosity in favor of group interplay.
Knowing that Sonar needed a very deep bass sound to counterbalance the high-pitched guitar harmonics, Stephan invited his friend Christian Kuntner from Radio Osaka, a band they had both played in.
Bernhard had met a young drummer, Manuel Pasquinelli, at one of Nik Bärtsch’s workshops, thinking that he would be the perfect drummer to play the polymetric beats that they were imagining.
At the end of their first rehearsal, it was perfectly clear that this project would be very exciting and that exactly the right people had found each other.
After about half a year of rehearsals, Sonar played a few concerts in Switzerland and went straight to the studio to record « A Flaw of Nature », an album that was released in 2012 on Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin Rhythm Records label. Thanks to Nik’s connections around the globe, Steve Feigenbaum, head of Cuneiform Records (USA) became aware of Sonar and eventually signed them to his label. Thanks to the wide distributional net of Cuneiform, Sonar’s 2014 album « Static Motion » and their 2015 follow-up « Black Light » (produced by David Bottrill) led to international acclaim, dozens of excellent reviews and concerts in the USA, UK, Germany, France, Austria, Rumania and (in 2017) Japan.
Stephan Thelen composes all pieces with few exceptions, where he figures as co-composer. His approach to music via polymetric, minimalist structures are at least in part due to his life as a mathematician. Still, no composition will survive without an emotional content. This is provided via the energetic, ritualistic, and pointillist way the musicians present the music on stage. Stephan Thelen has played among others with Irène Schweizer and Henry Kaiser.
Guitarist Bernhard Wagner has been supporting act for Nik Bärtsch‘s Ronin for many years. His musical zest, the crystal clear guitar sounds and his unique approach to odd rhythms leave a special mark on the music. He not only manages to inspire as a guitarist but also as instructor of workshops that he teaches, involving various percussion instruments. He is an active member of the international live looping scene, for which he has organised festivals lasting several days.
Bassist Christian Kuntner has been playing since 30 years with Stephan Thelen. Less is more seems to be his motto and he gets rid of all musical ballast in his playing. Deep sounds and grooves maunder on soft paws; his bass work prowls beneath the twittering canopy of harmonics like some pensive big cat on the look out for a bite. Christian Kuntner grew up in the musically rich 80s, has played with countless musicians and can be heard on more than 40 recordings.
Manuel Pasquinelli is a dynamic drummer who also acts as composer for his own bands. His playing is precise and powerful. His musical approach, thinking beyond his own instrument, characterises his way of playing and lets even the most complex rhythms sound natural and effortless and gives the multi-layered and intricate polyrhythms of Sonar's music an organic quality.
"An anti-hero's masterpiece ... a revolutionary shot across the bow ... Sonar has defied the norm by crafting something singular and magical." (Jeff Miers, Static Motion review, The Buffalo News)
"Every so often a band comes into our sights and completely blows us away... SONAR performs music in its purest form which results in spellbinding performances." (The Capstone theatre, Liverpool UK)
"Best music that I stumbled upon. Thank you Guitar Player magazine. It's so fantastic that the synapses can still be mystified and truly excited after 50+ years of listening to virtually everything that I could get my ears on." (James Livy MacDonald)
"Sonar has become one of the most convincing rock groups not only in Switzerland, but in the whole of Europe..."
"Two guitar currents circulate and sparkle hypnotically, warm deep basslines hit with assertiveness and groove, drums pound with finesse and might. Luminous, alluring, dangerous....Sonar is a highly creative and original nocturnal entity constantly evolving in order to provide immersive and challenging instrumental music that stimulates the mind, body and soul." (Nocturnal Ghost, Sonic Exposure::Sonar, Igloo Magazine)
"An amazing band from Switzerland. Incredible live - this is visionary torch-bearing music performed by an exceptionally talented outfit" (Mike Chadwick, The Cutting Edge, Jazz FM, UK. Thanks to Mike for frequently playing Sonar tracks on his excellent Sunday evening program "The Cutting Edge")
"This album (Black Light) is PHENOMENAL. What I love about this music is how meticulously composed it is and in no hurry to develop; morphing continuously, slowly and deliberately. The grooves, syncopation and harmony are superb (Tritone-tuned guitars!) and the initial melody on "Orbit 5.7" absolutely crushes me. It's subtle, sophisticated and inspired. I very highly recommend checking it out. Listen with headphones whenever possible. Listen again. And again. Repeated listening will deliver more gifts than you could hope to receive after simply one listen. Or one-hundred... (Matt Tate, Black Light Facebook review)
"I have been craving a new musical fix for a long time. Black Light is the first exciting thing I've heard in a long time and I wonder why I hadn't heard Sonar a long time ago." (Lee Mason, Bandcamp commentary on Black Light)
"clean, obscure, straight forward, daring, minimal, hypnotic, attractive and unpretentious. Yet worked out close to clockwork-like perfection! " (progarchives.com)
"The impossible record. Complex, minimal instrumental grooves that are so loping and locked in place that the slightest variation of articulation, the briefest solo, have monumental effect. Seventy minutes of watching the movement of the most beautifully made clock you've ever seen." (George Grella, Static Motion review, The Big City Blogspot)
"Directness, purity, asymmetry and, above all, transparency have always been important to me. The surface of the music is seemingly simple but the intricacy of detail and the combination of restraint and expressivity challenge the performer." (www.veooz.com)
"Had MC Escher made music instead of drawing his famously impossible and perplexing perspectives, it would sound like Sonar." (Sid Smith, Prog Magazine)
"So yeah, something of the cobra dance, a repeated ritual of exquisite symbiosis... Carefully picked harmonics ping against intricately chorded rhythmic runs, the patterns lively and ginger and fluid and utterly fascinating, especially when built on a throbbing monster bass and a proggy jazzy rock insistence of drum, as on the opening title track but really that alignment just about suits the album entire... That bass, it should be mentioned, is key to this projects innate listenability, ploughing chest-rumbling furrows underneath each track and supplying the primal grounding that allows the rest of the structure to take whatever flight it must. (Dave Cantrell, Caught in the Carousel)
"A really fascinating blend of art-rock, groove-based minimalism and abstract mathematical theory, all woven together to great effect" (John Schaefer, host of the superb New Sounds program, Radio WNYC, New York)
"Beautifully disturbed clockwork...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. 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... " (from Mike Bearpark's review of the SONAR concert at the Vortex in London)
"I find it quite wonderful that four blokes armed with guitars, bass and drums can have seasoned old gits like us exploding with such joy and enthusiasm. First time I heard the samples of this band, it was like being a teenager and hearing that game changing music (whatever it might have been for any of us) for the first time". (Andy McDuffie, Hastings, UK)
Two guitars, bass, and drums, pure and without effects: Sonar uses this most traditional instrumentation to create music unlike anything you’ve heard before. Fusing a rigorous less-is-more esthetic with the power of a rock band, they create mesmerizing sonic rituals that captivate audiences beyond genres, styles, and tastes.
If you need a genre, then call Sonar a "minimal groove band". They released two albums on the US label Cuneiform Records, Static Motion (2014) and Black Light (2015). A new CD called "Vortex" (produced by David Torn) was released on the RareNoise label in March 2018.
"Black Light" is available in a standard version or with a limited special edition slipcase, available on the band's Bandcamp site or at the CD release event.
The vinyl version is a double LP in a gatefold sleeve with two bonus live tracks, also available on Bandcamp or at live gigs.
The album was recorded and mixed by the 3 time Grammy Award winning producer David Bottrill (Peter Gabriel, Tool, King Crimson).
The four musicians create musical and sonic spaces where your ears and your mind can enter, free to explore and discover complex, multi-layered polymetric rhythms and isorhythms in mainly odd metres and patterns, combined with unusual harmonies. But with Sonar, it’s far from just being about structures: Especially live with their ritualistic, slow-build approach to dramaturgy, the members of the group free themselves from the bonds of human logic to conjure up a narcotically intense emotional world. They do not operate as a collection of soloists; Rather, they focus on collective group efforts and a deeper kind of interaction amongst each other.
Cuneiform Records (Rune 414) USA
Cuneiform Records (Rune 374) USA
LIVE AT BAZILLUS
available on Bandcamp
available on Bandcamp
A FLAW OF NATURE
Ronin Rhythm records (RON 009)
Tech Rider, Presskit, Downloads
ProgDay Festival 2017, CHAPEL HILL NC
Orion Sound Studios, BALTIMORE MD
Shapeshifter Lab, BROOKLYN NY
Sonic Circuits Festival, WASHINGTON DC
Reggie's Live, CHICAGO IL
BSP, KINGSTON NY
The Capstone Theatre, LIVERPOOL
Band on the Wall, MANCHESTER
The Vortex Jazz Club, LONDON
Interkulturelle Bühne, FRANKFURT
Layla's Kulturkeller, AACHEN
KunstWerk e. V. ULM
Festival L'abore, HAUPTMANNSGRÜN
Jazz ohne Stress, Waldsee, FREIBURG
AUT / FRA / RO / FL :
Early Bird, INNSBRUCK, AUT
Musiques Innovatrices, ST. ETIENNE, FRA
Piata Primariei, OTOPENI, RO
Green Hours Jazz Festival, BUCHAREST, RO
Tangente, ESCHEN FL
Out in the Kraut Festival, SCHANGNAU
Black Light CD Release Event, Exil, ZÜRICH
Orbital Garden, BERN
Playground Lounge, BERN
Mahogany Hall, BERN
Komm Doch Festival, LUZERN
Gate 68, SOLOTHURN
Grabenhalle, ST. GALLEN
CD Launch Party with special guest Markus Reuter, EXIL, ZÜRICH
Perlaton Vol 2 Festival, Friction, ZÜRICH
Festival Polygon 3, Polygonstr. 3, BERN
OpenAir Flowerstone, BLUMENSTEIN
RecRec(In-Store Concert), ZÜRICH
Haus für Kunst und Kultur, ZÜRICH
Maiers, ZÜRICH CH
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