AMN Reviews: Sonata Islands Kommandoh – Quasar Burning Bright (2020; Chant Records)

Every so often an album comes along that just hits the spot – it might be weird and diverse, but also strangely familiar. Quasar Burning Bright from Sonata Islands Kommandoh fits that bill. Led by Italian flutist and composer, Emilio Galante, the band consists of him along with Giovanni Venosta on keyboards and vocals, Alberto N. A. Turra on guitar, and Stefano Grasso on drums.

The group’s name invokes the French band Magma, and there certainly are some Zeuhl elements to be heard. In fact, the previous Sonata Islands Kommandoh release was a jazz take on Magma. But Galante mixes up the influences of Vander and company with electronics, glitch, improvisation, and experimentation. The writing is not overtly complex as much as it is unusual. The rhythmic structure comprises repeating themes that vary in pitch and angularity. Flutes take a leading role over these as well within tracks that are synth-driven and occasionally funky to the point of being almost danceable. There is no shortage of groove.

The album wraps up with a 12-minute piece, It Ain’t Necessarily So, that is perhaps the most experimental and Magma-influenced of the bunch. It features a choir, cosmic synths, and spacious orchestration of flute, keys, and drums. It puts a strange and beautiful ending on a compellingly oddball offering.

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