Black Light

Music Review

3 Nov 2015
Sonar
Black Light
Cuneiform
Formats also available: CD, double vinyl
CD, double vinyl

This album has many intriguing qualities; it is the most listenable avant garde music I’ve heard all year. Sonar have an expressive sound that is rhythmic and almost funky in places, but all in a prog-Sufi kind of a way. It is so precise it makes Steely Dan sound positively clumsy. Fans of King Crimson will find much to love about it and some have suggested it is album that they never made. It is rock jazz as opposed to the other way round, the sort of sound that fans of Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree will cherish. It is also the best prog rock I have ever heard (not that I’m a big fan of the genre ) and it’s a wall of sound that makes you feel as if you are watching a giant wave rolling endlessly towards the shore.

The band of sound alchemists called Sonar are largely from Switzerland, they are Stefan Thelen (electric guitar), Bernhard Wagner (electric guitar), Christian Kuntner (electric bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli on drums. These guys are a breed apart, founder Stefan Thelen has a PhD in mathematics and studied with Robert Fripp, the other guitar player Bernard Wagner is a software engineer involved in Nik Bärtsch’s various ensembles.

The six pieces this album contains form a long'ish album of almost 50 minutes. It doesn't have a theme but does have a very distinctive and addictive sound. It has enough energy stored in it to power a small Midwestern town for the foreseeable and isn't easy to categorise, but it’s hard to turn off. For the audiophile it will sound a bit artificial but all in all it’s not a bad recording given the nature of the instrumentation. It’s hard to pick an ultimate single track that is better than the rest, for me it's a toss up between ‘Enneagram’ and ‘Angular Momentum’, but every track is a small masterpiece. As you can probably tell I was quite taken by its hypnotic presentation.

Reuben Klein