Swiss experimentalists Sonar found a new groove on their album Vortex (RareNoiseRecords, 2018): the marriage of their intricate pattern playing with the American guitarist/live looper David Torn's raw emotional abandon created a rich synthesis. This live album is a celebration of that sound, but it is much more than a live version of their collaboration in the studio.
Opener "Twofold Covering" starts out in fresh territory, adding Torn to a track from Sonar's Static Motion (Cuneiform Records, 2014). It is an expanded version, taking the eight-minute original to almost thirteen minutes courtesy of an expanded introduction and solo space for Torn: but the hypnotic groove remains intact.
Sonar revisits "Tromsø" without Torn. One of the first pieces they rehearsed together, it appeared on their debut album A Flaw of Nature (Ronin Rhythm Records, 2012). Constructed using minimal but effective musical ideas, it has long been a staple of their live shows, and builds to an exciting climax here.
"For Lost Sailors" is a completely improvised David Torn live looping solo, like the music on his album Only Sky (ECM Records, 2015). Starting from a simple guitar loop with no additional electronic effects, it grows into a big distorted emotional peak, followed by a gentle, lyrical coda: a total emotional journey in a little over ten minutes. A treat for Torn fans, and a good demonstration of the breadth of his live looping practice.
The tracks reprised from Vortex generally stay close to the originals—Sonar's mathematical forms are not intended for much improvisation—but live performance adds an undeniable energy, and Torn is a wild card, as always. "Lookface!" is the final track both here and on the original album. The live version is actually a bit shorter, and comes to a definite ending instead of fading out like it did in the studio. A great ending to a live set that comes highly recommended.
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