AMN Reviews: Sonar with David Torn – Tranceportation Vol​.​ 1 (2019; RareNoiseRecords)

Collaborators Sonar and famed guitarist David Torn return for a third release in Tranceportation Vol​. ​1. Unlike their first two, a live recording and a set of remixes by Bill Laswell, this effort is live in the studio. Consisting of four long tracks, the album provides a compelling amalgam of styles – Sonar providing proceduralist backing for Torn’s soloing and looping.

Sonar, a four-piece Swiss group, is Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner on tritone guitar, Christian Kuntner on tritone bass, and Manuel Pasquinelli on drums. Their modus operandi falls somewhere between minimalism, post-rock, and 80’s King Crimson. Each melody is based on a relatively simple pattern of notes and/or chords that they slowly explore through polyrhythms and unusual time signatures. Over this, Torn lays down his signature note bending, wails, and effects. The result is a compelling juxtaposition of Sonar’s disciplined approach and Torn’s unpredictability.

Indeed, Tranceportation is a fitting title for these explorations, as Sonar’s parts are lulling and trance-like, while Torn’s are jarring and attention-grabbing. The album is thus suitable for both active listening as well as for providing a background set of grooves, albeit unconventional in nature.

And as you might have guessed from the Vol. 1 designation, a second volume from the same sessions is in the works for 2020.

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