Sonar - "Celluloid"
(self-released 2008, SON314)
From Aural Innovations #40 (September 2008)
Sonar are a Hungarian quartet who play an all instrumental brand of rock that incorporates space rock, electronica, trance, progressive rock and some ethnic influences. The band consists of Bálint Szabó on guitar, Marcell Kovács on synths, samplers and Rhodes, and Balázs Csáky on bass, plus four different drummers credited on different tracks, though one of them, Bence Bolygó, must have come on board full time because he's listed in the lineup on the Sonar Myspace page.
After a brief intro of spacey electronic experimentation and the kind of off-kilter grooves that the Finnish band Circle defined, the music segues smoothly into "Peloton", which is a beautiful spacey, trancey melodic instrumental. Searing guitar licks, heart pounding bass and outstanding incorporation of electronics. And I like the way the band alternates between quieter ambient sections and heavier rocking parts, the latter bringing to mind a spaced out version of U2 with electronics added to the mix. Other highlights include the seductively melodic "Katamar", which works itself up to high levels of uplifting intensity. I really like the mixture of guitar styles that contrast in interesting ways with the electronics. "Weloce" is part head boppin' spaced out and funky dance piece and part intense and briefly dark doomy Prog, with just a wee bit of hip-hop scratching thrown in for good measure. Lots of thematic transitions that all come together nicely and all within the boundaries of a 5 minute piece. Impressive. "Central Station" is a deeply meditative but still melodic trance-ambient piece. But after a bit it starts to rock out in ways that really brings to mind fellow countrymen Korai Orom. "Deltroid" is one of the most high energy tracks of the set, mixing blazing and bubbling trip guitars with spaced out and totally freaky synths and in-yer-face drumming… these guys are on FIRE! "Üveg" features searing acidic rock and trippy grooving funk. And "Dubai" is another excellent high energy rocker that sounds like a space rock version of U2.
Sonar excel at composing solid melodic hooks and building various interesting rock and electronic constructions around them. Overall they strike me as a combination of U2, Porcupine Tree and Korai Orom. Stripped down to its basics the music would probably be classified in the mainstream press as "Alt-Rock". But with the addition of the electronics, spacey vibe, and imaginative compositional complexity, Sonar have created an enjoyable hour of meditative and rocking pleasure.
For more information you can visit the Sonar web site at: http://www.sonarmusic.hu
Visit the Sonar Myspace site at: http://www.myspace.com/sonarmusic
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz
Reviewed by Scott Heller