Swiss experimental rock quartet Sonar (whose name is a portmanteau of "sonic" and "architecture") comprise guitarists Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner, bassist Christian Kuntner, and drummer Manuel Pasquinelli. The bandmembers bring an array of talents uniquely suited to creating Sonar's precise and rhythmically complex yet spacious and streamlined post-minimalist sound, harmonically idiosyncratic with the guitars and bass tuned in tritones (an interval given the Latin name diabolus in musica -- the devil in music -- during medieval times). The California-born Thelen is a strong admirer of the early- to mid-'70s (Starless and Bible Black) and early- to mid-'80s (Discipline) editions of King Crimson, and participated with the Venezuela-born Wagner in Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft seminars in the '90s. Thelen (Sonar's principal composer) also studied classical guitar, and he earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Zurich. As a solo artist, Wagner performs and records using innovative live looping processes; he is also a software engineer. Kuntner and Pasquinelli are participants in a wide variety of bands and projects, and both are former students at the University of Arts in Bern.
Influenced by Fripp's arpeggiated and riff-centric post-minimalist structures, guitarists Thelen and Wagner cemented the concept of their own band in Switzerland in the summer of 2010, and held their first rehearsals with bassist Kuntner and drummer Pasquinelli in November of that year. Sonar played their first gigs in Zurich and Bern in June 2011, and recorded their debut album, A Flaw of Nature, live in the studio at Bern's Swiss Jazz School two months later. A Flaw of Nature was released on pianist Nik Bärtsch's Ronin Rhythm imprint in April 2012. Not letting their momentum flag (rather appropriate considering the steady propulsiveness of their music), Sonar were back at the Swiss Jazz School in June 2012 to record (again live in the studio) their next release, the four-track EP Skeleton Groove, which was released by Thelen's RepTile imprint in November -- the same month that Sonar recorded their next album live at Zurich's Bazillus Club. Live at Bazillus was released digitally by RepTile in December 2012 (incidentally, several months before the jazz venue with a 40-year history closed its doors for the last time). April and May of 2013 found Sonar on a European tour featuring dates in Switzerland, Germany, and England, along with four days of recording -- once again live in the studio -- at Ocean Sound in Giske, Norway. The sessions resulted in the music heard on the band's third full-length album, Static Motion, released by the Cuneiform label in January 2014. ~ Dave Lynch