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Sonar is a avant-progressive, post-minimal band from Switzerland. Their name stands for SONic ARchitecture, which alludes to their intention of creating polymetric and highly structured sound sculptures. In 2012, they released their first CD A Flaw of Nature on Nik Bärtsch's Ronin Rhythm Records label as well as the four track EP Skeleton Groove and the digital live album Live at Bazillus. Cuneiform records released their second full-length CD Static Motion in 2014. Their third album Black Light was recorded and mixed by David Bottrill and released by Cuneiform in 2015 on CD and vinyl.

Fusing a rigorous minimal esthetic with the power of a rock band, Sonar create sonic rituals unlike anything you have ever heard before. With their slow-build approach to dramaturgy and avoidance of conventional forms, they focus on collective group efforts and a deeper kind of interaction amongst their members Stephan Thelen (guitar), Bernhard Wagner (guitar), Christian Kuntner (electric bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums).

It's music, but not like you know it. 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 clichés. The group's rhythms are also highly unconventional and usually consist of multi-layered polymetric rhythms and isorhythms in mainly odd metres.

Sonar's less-is-more approach is also mirrored in their choice of equipment: their music is always played live without any sequencers, loops or computers, using only two guitars, a bass guitar, three small amplifiers and a basic drum kit. They are just as comfortable playing in a small living room as on a big stage in front of 1000 people. Nearly effect-free (with just a touch of reverb), 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 making the music more than the sum of the individual parts of the players.

By using unusual harmonies as well as complex and layered polyrhythms the group ultimately aims to let their listeners re-experience the mystery, power and magic of hearing music for the first time.



Q U O T E S :

"An anti-hero's masterpiece ... a revolutionary shot across the bow ... an album that radically reinvents instrumental interplay ... 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, Static Motion review, The Buffalo News)

"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)

"This album 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. "Black Light" is an undulating polyphonic, polyrhythmic and polymetric mass of texture and mood. 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)

"Layered and interlocking polyrhythms shift, break apart and reform freely; leaving no way to discern figure from ground. The enveloping darkness renders the lack of a clear reference frame irrelevant, though. Minimalist prog rock that recalls King Crimson, but more subdued and more focused. Highly recommended." (Dillion Ethier, Bandcamp commentary on Black Light)

"The aural equivalent of watching a very fine Swiss escapement movement in action...this band are precision personified. This does not mean this album is devoid of atmosphere and emotion...it has it; in spades. There is musical tension too and it feels illicit and covert in places. Things this good are usually banned!" (John Cratchley, Bandcamp commentary on Black Light)

"Lovely deep energy that is hidden in repetitive monotonous patterns and rythms, and melodic parts which suddenly appear in dense sound, drive me absolutely crazy ))) Hypnotising music!" (Olga Kivius, Bandcamp commentary on Black Light)

"I have been craving a new musical fix for a long time. These days we're too spoiled when it comes to the consumption of music and we all get in that place where we have thousands of great albums literally at our fingertips, but we're bored of it all. 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)

"Best music that I stumbled upon in 2014. 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)

"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)

"...one of the most exhilarating listens of 2014 thus far. Creating progressive rock without the presence of shifting effects and textures, their snake like harmonizing is a fascinating gift to the spectrum of modern rock music. There's a raw level of energy that resides within the fabric of the groups core, jolting out of very intricate rhythm and melodic patterns to project a non traditional sense of collective energy. Highly technical and expressive, this is some of the best rock music I have heard in years and the moments that become unhinged really add a depth to the albums entire flow that records of its kind lack." (Sound Colour Vibration, multi-media website)

"Had MC Escher made music instead of drawing his famously impossible and perplexing perspectives, it would sound like Sonar." (Sid Smith, Prog Magazine)

"With progressive rock experiencing a significant resurgence, Sonar remains a rare outfit looking ever forward, with unrelenting emphasis on the true meaning of the word "progressive." There may be no 'trons, epic songwriting or instrumental pyrotechnics, but Static Motion - a clear evolution of Sonar's core concepts first heard on A Flaw of Nature - is an album whose slow-build approach to dramaturgy, couched in intrinsic minimalism, reveals plenty more with each and every listen." (John Kelman, All About Jazz)

"Static Motion bewitches with unique sonic rituals that beautifully combine mystery and power... This quartet is not into empty technique displays and endless pointless solos. These guys are not here to show off or impress anybody. These guys are all about playing together as a crystallized unit that generates deadly wholes by equally combining its members' strengths. They don't outshine each other, they intensify each other." (Nocturnal Ghost, Igloo Magazine)

"So yeah, something of the cobra dance on Static Motion, 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 project’s 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. The result, and in fact the necessary point of a work this delicately drawn, is balance, which Static Motion as a whole more than artfully maintains with the precision of the finest plate spinners risking stacks of expensive crystal at the ends of their wand. Fragile but sure, SONAR live on that fulcrum, and it’s that tension that gives at least this band’s brand of minimalism an unexpectedly nervous buoyancy, too perpetually on edge to be defined as anything resembling ‘relaxation music.’ The opposite of anodyne, in other words, and personally this year’s first truly exciting discovery." (Dave Cantrell, Caught in the Carousel)

"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 (that) create a bold but harmonically enjoyable musical cosmos. This is truly music as you've never experienced it before and a one of a kind musical performance." (The Capstone theatre, Liverpool UK)

"Album of the day: SONAR's A Flaw of Nature. This is a superb, ultra-deep minimalist groove record pulsing with dynamic energy and creative intrigue. SONAR stands for "Sonic Architecture" which is apt given the razor-sharp compositional focus of the record. This entirely instrumental album will appeal to adventurous rock and jazz aficionados everywhere [...] This quartet is unlike anything you've heard before. How often can you say you've encountered a truly unique act? Rarely. Here's one that qualifies." (Anil Prasad, music journalist and author of the best-selling book Innerviews: Music Without Borders)

"...Sonar's idiosyncratic sound world....once you are in, you don't want to leave..." (Nik Bärtsch, pianist and ECM recording artist)

"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. Thanks to John for including a Sonar track on his New Sounds podcast from April 30th 2012 where he also competently talked in detail about the music and its background. Listen to the podcast
here)

"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")

"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...Pointillistic rock... 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 (30 April 2013). Read the full review here)

"This (A Flaw of Nature) is released by Nik Bärtsch's label, and it has very obvious ties to Nik's esthetic, but this is more of a rock band. Think of it as a very stripped down Glenn Branca, Don Caballero or King Crimson crossed with heavy minimalistic moves and Present's "Promenade au Fond d'un Canal". Everything is perfectly calculated and precise; even the drum fills seem planned to move you slowly but inexorably towards whatever ultimate denouement this album is heading your towards. I have a huge love for minimalism and stuff that unfolds slowly, so bear that in mind, but I found this to be utterly fantastic. I can not recommend this highly enough.". (Steve Feigenbaum, www.waysidemusic.com)

"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)

"Especially live, the members of the group free themselves from the bonds of human logic to conjure up a narcotically intensive emotional world" (Hanspeter Küenzler, NZZ, 7.4.2012)

"What a joy, what a pleasure, what a discovery! A masterpiece of minimalist post rock with traces of jazz, magical guitar harmonics and a deep and overwhelming bass" (Vasilis Pavlidis, mci.gr music portal, Athens, Greece)

"In concert the band's secret weapon is Christian Kuntner whose bass work prowls beneath the twittering canopy of harmonics like some pensive big cat on the look out for a bite. Phenomenal touch". (Sid Smith, music journalist and writer, UK)

"With the guitars and bass tuned to tritones, there's a semi-dissonant, challenging quality to the constellations of plucked harmonics that chime in orbit around each other. They create interlocking, overlapping and polyrhythmic meters, reminiscent of the early minimalist microworlds of Steve Reich and the 80s-era gamelan rock of King Crimson [...] Sonar's music firmly locates the group as a glisteningly brilliant node on the continuum of the Swiss minimalist scene alongside the pioneering work of saxophonist Don Li and the ritual groove of Nik Bärtsch" (Sid Smith, from the sleeve notes of the CD)

"Experimental, minimalist, instrumental post/math rock. Simply hypnotic. Specially tuned guitars produce an unusual harmonic sound. The more I listen, the more I like this album. Pretty awesome actually." (Ian Greatorex, http://progarchy.com, A Flaw of Nature was one of his top albums of 2012)



R E V I E W S :

2016


John Shanahan, Black Light review, hypnagogue.net, July 4 2016.

Bernard Vincken, Black Light review, Prog-résiste 84, June 2016.

Rigo Dittmann, Static Motion review, Bad Alchemy 07/15

Sid Smith, Black Light review, Prog Magazine, May 2016.

Cathgerine Codridex, Black Light review, Highland Magazine 078, May 2016.

Claudio Bonomi, Black Light review, All About Jazz, 15 April 2016.

Jennifer Kelly, Black Light review, blurt magazine, 25 March 2016.

Oliver Arditi, Black Light review, oliverarditi.com, 1 March 2016.

Michael Peter Bluhm, Live review (Ulm), Augsburger-Allgemeine, 29 February 2016.

Udo Andris, Live review (Freiburg), Badische Zeitung, 29 February 2016.

Renato de Moraes, Black Light review, progbrasil.com.br, 21 February 2016.

Markus Stegmayr, Black Light review, Alpenfeuilleton, 19 February, 2015.

Doug Simpson, Black Light review, Audiophile Audition, 11 February, 2015.

Billy Pavlides, Black Light review, mic.gr, 9 February, 2015.

Réjean Beaucage, Black Light review, voir.ca, 20 January, 2015.

Grego Applegate Edwards, Black Light review, gapplegateguitar.blogspot.ch, 14 January, 2015.

César Inca Mendoza, Black Light review, Rock-Progressivo.com, 12 January, 2015.

Robert Steven Silverstein, Black Light review, mwe3.com, January, 2015.

César Inca Mendoza, Black Light review, Autopoietican Blogspot, 7 January, 2015.

Aleksandr Lézy, Black Light review, chromatique.net, 5 January, 2015.

2015

John Davie (Mellotron Storm), Black Light review, Progarchives, December 2015.

Roger Trenwith, Black Light review, The Progressive Aspect, December 17, 2015.

Reuben Klein, Black Light tops the list of the-ear.net's albums of the year, December 2015.

cd-score.nl, Black Light review, December 12, 2015.

Jason Kennedy, Black Light review, The Ear's best albums of 2015.

Matt George, Static Motion review, dprp.net, Issue 2015-89.

Fabio Marco Ferragatta, Black Light review, Impatto Sonoro, November 24, 2015.

Chris Redfearn, Black Light review, A Closer Listen, November 22, 2015.

Jerry Lucky, Black Light review, www.jerrylucky.com, November 20, 2015.

Barry Cleveland, Black Light review, The Lodge, November 17, 2015.

Kristian Selm, Black Light review, Betreutes Proggen.de, November 15, 2015.

wovbagger, Black Light review, csakbennhajogerendazatto.blog.hu, November 12, 2015.

Christof Thurnherr, Black Light review, Jazz'n'more, November, 2015.

Peter van Laarhoven, Black Light review, united-mutations.blogspot.ch, November 7, 2015.

alienshore, Black Light review, www.progboard.com, November 5, 2015.

Reuben Klein, Black Light review, the-ear.net, November 3, 2015.

Avi Shaked, Black Light review, maelstromzine.com, November 2, 2015.

Rinko Ennema, Black Light review, progpraat.com, October 30, 2015.

Rodney Fuchs, Black Light review, itdjents.com, October 30, 2015.

Alfredo Sgarlato, Black Light review, distorsioni.net, October 26, 2015.

Jochen Rindfrey, Black Light review, Babyblaue Seiten, October 23, 2015.

Markellos Nardoi, Black Light review, wordpress.com, October 20, 2015.

Gerald Langer, Concert review with photos, Music-On-Net, October 19, 2015.

Exystence, Black Light review, Exystence music blog, October 16, 2015.

Matt Tate, Black Light review, October 14, 2015.

Peter Thelen, Black Light review, expose.org, October 11, 2015.

Christoph Merki, CD release event review, Tagesanzeiger, October 1, 2015.

Frank von Niederhäusern, Diabolus in Musica, Züritipp, September 24, 2015.

Thomas Kohlruss, Black Light review, Babyblaue Seiten, September 25, 2015.

Gerald Langer, Black Light review, Music-On-Net, September 24, 2015.

Karl Ackermann, Black Light review, All About Jazz, September 20, 2015.

Jean Paul Gavard Perret, Black Light review, les immortels, September 2015.

Jean Paul Gavard Perret, Black Light review, les blogs de l'art helvetique contemporain, August 2015.

Avi Shaked, Static Motion review, maelsromzine.com, April 2015.

Markus Stegmayr, Static Motion review, Alpen Feuilleton, April 2nd 2015.

2014

Bernard Vincken/Martin Hannett, Prog Résiste, Static Motion review, 2014.

Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret, Static Motion review, les blogs de l'art helvetique contemporain.

Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret, Static Motion review, les immortels, October 26, 2014

Pirmin Bossart, Static Motion review, Jazz'n'more, September 2014.

Mathieu Carre, Static Motion review, www.chromatique.net, July 30th 2014.

Curt Cuisine, Static Motion review, www.skug.at, July 7th 2014.

admireArt, A Flaw of Nature review, progarchives.com, July 6th 2014.

Patrick Bruneel, Static Motion review, www.gonzocircus.com, July 2nd 2014.

admireArt, Static Motion review, progarchives.com, June 29th 2014.

Laurent Catala, Static Motion review, Noise Magazine, June 2014

Pierre Durr, review of the "Musiques Innovatrices" festival in St. Etienne, June 2014

Sid Smith, Static Motion release event review, Prog Magazine (issue 46), June 2014

Dogeye, Static Motion review, Asheville FM, June 3rd 2014.

Julian Eidenberger, Static Motion review, www.freejazzblog.org, June 2nd 2014.

Michael Popke, Static Motion review, Shepherd Express, Milwaukee USA, May 29th 2014.

Jeff Miers, Static Motion review, The Buffalo News, May 25th 2014

Ingo Andruschkewitsch, Static Motion review, www.musikansich.de, May 2014

Arno Oehri, Concert review, Tangente, Liechtenstein, May 17th 2014

Nogbad_The_Bad, Static Motion review, www.progarchives.com, May 17th 2014

Stefan Künzli, Aargauerzeitung, May 2014.

Michael Sutter, Concert review, Lucerne, May 10th 2014, www.kulturteil.ch

Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog, May 7th 2014

Ettore Garzia, Static Motion CD review, ettoregarzia.blogspot.it, April 27th, 2014

Massimo Ricci, Static Motion CD review, touchingextremes.wordpress.com, April 21st, 2014

Doug Simpson, Static Motion CD review, Audiophile Audition, April 20th, 2014

Mr. Badlands, Static Motion CD review, forum.rollingstone.de, April 18th, 2014

Roger Trenwith, Static Motion CD review, The Progressive Aspect, April 8th, 2014

Nikola Savic. Static Motion CD review, Prog Sphere, April 5th, 2014

progressive-newsletter.de, Static Motion, Progressive Newsletter Nr. 80, April 18, 2014

Oliver Arditi, Static Motion CD review, oliverarditi.com, March 26, 2014

Dave Lynch, Static Motion (CD review), www.allmusic.com, March 2014.

Renato de Moraes, Static Motion (CD review), progbrasil.com.br, March 24th 2014.

John Kelman, Static Motion (CD review), All About Jazz, March 22nd, 2014.

progrocks.gr, Static Motion (CD review), March 2014

Jochen Rindfrey, Static Motion (CD review), babyblaue-seiten, March 2014

Francois Couture, Static Motion (CD review), Monsieur Delire Blog, March 2014

Frank von Niederhäusern, Brachial Minimal, March 2014

Nocturnal Ghost, Static Motion (CD review), Igloo Magazine, February 2014

Dana Lawrence, Static Motion (CD review), Sea of Tranquility, February 2014

Mos Eisley Music, Static Motion (CD review), February 2014

Dave Cantrell, Minimalism Perpetually on Edge, Stereo Embers Magazine, January 2014

Sound Colour Vibration, Static Motion, January 18th 2014

Michael Ross, Introducing: Sonar, www.guitarmoderne.com, January 17th 2014

Gerald Langer, Static Motion review, www.music-on-net.com, January 17th 2014

Sid Smith, Static Motion (CD review), Prog Magazine, 2014

Peter Thelen, Static Motion (CD review), expose.org, January 5th, 2014

Federico Chavez, A Flaw of Nature (CD review), www.babyblaue-seiten.de, January 2014

2011 - 2013

Peter Thelen, A Flaw of Nature (CD review), expose.org, December 6th, 2013

Ian Greatorex, Sonar live at the Vortex, Progarchy.com, 2 May 2013

Mike Bearpark, Sonar live at the Vortex, May 2013

Denise Kronabitter, Ordered Chaos of Forms, Liechtensteiner Vaterland, 28 Jan 2013

Helmut Dworschak, Im Möbius-Loop, Der Landbote, 29. November 2012

Christoph Merki, Stephan Thelen erkundet das Teufelsintervall, Tages Anzeiger, 26. Mai 2012

Frank von Niederhäusern, Formelhafter Sound mit Tiefgang, Kulturtipp, May 2012

Rob Hughes, Swiss post-rockers trance themselves dizzy, Prog Magazine #26, May 2012

Hanspeter Küenzler, Musik à la Pythagoras, NZZ, 7. April 2012

Filip Dingerkus, www.semestra.ch, June 2011



I N T E R V I E W S    &    F E A T U R E S:

Robert Steven Silverstein (www.mwe3.com) spoke with Stephan Thelen about Black Light.

Igloo Magazine Sonic Exposure::Sonar, September 2015.

Guitar Player Magazine, Minimalist Mavericks, August 2014.

Robert Steven Silverstein (www.mwe3.com) spoke with Stephan Thelen about Static Motion.

Anil Prasad, Infinite Power, Innerviews.org, January 2014.

Kim Longin (Ronin Rhythm Records) spoke with Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner about Sonar's music and its background.

Robert Steven Silverstein (www.mwe3.com) spoke with Stephan Thelen about A Flaw of Nature.



T E X T S    A N D    L I N E R    N O T E S :

BLACK LIGHT (Cuneiform Press Release)

BLACK LIGHT: THE ONGOING EVOLUTION OF ANOMALIES (Black Light sleeve notes, by John Kelman)

STATIC MOTION (Cuneiform Press Release, January 2014, by Jim Allen)

VERTICAL TIME (Static Motion sleeve notes, by Anil Prasad)

SONAR WAVES (A Flaw of Nature sleeve notes, by Sid Smith)

PYTHAGORAS, TRITONE HARMONICS AND THE SONAR TUNING by Stephan Thelen

SONAR'S INFLUENCES by Stephan Thelen