7d Media 2019
Swiss ensemble take their leave but linger on long enough to caress the listener’s ear and promise to return.
From the onset, SONAR’s musical template has been minimal yet often intense, so the band’s drummer Manuel Pasquinelli reined in the latter characteristic when branching out into another cryptic reach with AKKU whose fourth record is a study in emotional quiet – or so it may seem. In fact, there’s the “calm before the storm” air to the album: call it a new “Rhapsody In Blue” in a nod to the finale of “Cyan” – the brass-splashed, mirage-like bolero of sorts – for the five numbers on offer, from “Largo” onward, exude this aura of sweet worry. Unlike live circumstances, where Pasquinelli’s beats regularly take the back seat, studio environment and a composer outlook allow Manuel’s rhythms to breathe and bring out the best in his individual method.
The air is fleshed out soon after the start, once a subtle groove emerging from behind Maja Nydegger’s ivories shimmer, on the wave of Andi Schnellmann’s bass, has been shot through with processed vibes. They give the elegiac flow a cosmic sensibility while Michael Gilsenan’s spectral sax lines prepare the terrain for Markus Ischer’s guitar riffs and a soaring solo – only to crash it all and collapse into pulsating sparseness. Robust yet brittle, the tune might menacingly lose volume to an almost silent passages, but piano and reeds will return to pick up the beauty and carry the melody further on, before pentatonic patterns of “Made In China” up the mood thanks to playful bells and delectable funky jive. The effect feels simultaneously pacifying and anxious, especially when fusion licks kick in and recede in the face of a four-strings-propelled, shifting tempo.
This is what enlivens the low tones of “Breeze”: a barely-there ripple of aural fabric that grows in scope without ever taking on the gust proportions – perhaps, just because the album’s centerpiece is too brief. Still, it’s a perfect counterpart to the epic promise of other cuts such as the record’s title track – a ticking skronk-cum-bliss, full of expectancy and sonically reminiscent of creaking doors which swing in a jazzy way, with a gracious Latin edge. Given departures and arrivals go hand in hand, the sweet worry must entail the rapturous welcome – until the next time, though, all the joy is here.