December 21, 2020
Sonar with David Torn
Tranceportation Volume 2
RareNoise RNR 0120
SLAM CD 599
Moving the electric guitar into novel and unexpected spaces is the aim of these bands while altering the conception of the world’s most popular instrument. One approach comes from the members of the Greek Breadcrumb trio. The ideas of guitarists Giannis Arapis and Nikos Kordelis plus bassist Giorgos Kokkinaris is evolved as a trialogue, where, except in rare instances, the expected tones of the instruments are avoided. Meanwhile the Swiss quartet Sonar maintains its group identity by tuning its two guitars, played by Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner, plus the electric bass of Christian Kuntner in tritons. That means intervals pick up three tones above and three below the root notes creating instant multiphonics. Tranceportation Volume 2 is even more ambitious. Besides the decade of experience performing tritons the trio is matched with designated pulses from drummer Manuel Pasquinelli and polymath American guitarist David Torn joins the four, adding live looping to further demarcate the group sound.
From the beginning electronic whooshes sizzle alongside the microtonal string lines, interrupted by elevated lead guitar flanges and tough percussion back beats. Yet although a foot-tapping groove is maintained by Pasquinelli, it never overwhelms the others’ playing. Featuring slurred fingering and cross pulses among the guitarists, sonic distortions contribute to the hypnotic feel. Mostly evolving in parallel channels, individual characteristics are expressed briefly such as whammy bar distortion and ringing tones from one of the guitarists on “Tranceportation”. There’s also a quick turnaround from Pasquinelli on “Slowburn”, which marks a shift to arena-Rock-like chugging dynamics from the previous wiggly Theremin-like vibrations. Meanwhile assertive near onomatopoeic cadences from Kuntner are featured on the final “Cloud Chamber”. The continuous build up and dissolve of string patterns as they snake around one another characterize this track and the others on the CD. Although a few more identifying musical solos from the players could have elevated the program, stimulation arises from noting how the concentrated groove often crackles into unforeseen jabs and as quickly fades back to a continuum.
Although Breadcrumb is a trio compared to the Sonar quintet, they three create just as many unexpected textures and timbres on the players’ eponymous CD as are heard on the other. With musical currents as diverse as those of the other band, the result is a moussaka-like mixture that reflects Kordelis’ activities in free improvisation and urban folk music; Kokkinaris’ creation of improvisational dance work; and Arapis’ experience in noise rock and Free Jazz, with the like of Noël Akchoté. In fact the introductory “Harvest” manages to blend timbres from voltage drones, percussive stick taps on the taut strings and a buzzing bass line into a squeaking, frailing sequence that calls on Metal as much as Jazz. Banjo-like twangs, detuned bass strings that produce microtonal reverberations and shrill Rock-worthy flanges characterize the synergy on other tracks. Frequently the two guitarists engage in push and pull, shifting chords and figures from one to the other as Kokkinaris produces sul ponticello vibrations. Their intuitive relationship is such that on “Bread crumbs for birds” it sounds as if they’re all strumming a single 12-string guitar before the flowing sequence is broken with distorted whammies, whumps and string shakes.
Breadcrumb’s sonic boldness doesn’t prevent the program from having its moments of harmonic lyricism. “Small bucket of sand”, the final track moves from ringing string vibrations to a fluid, gentle coda that while reflecting what proceeded it, firmly competes the program.
Guitar bands that don’t resemble standard guitar bands, both Sonar and Breadcrumb should be heard.
Track Listing: Tranceportation: 1. Triskaidekaphilia 2. Tranceportation 3. Slowburn 4. Cloud Chamber
Personnel: Tranceportation: David Torn (guitar and live looping); Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner (tritone guitar); Christian Kuntner (tritone bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums and percussion)
Track Listing: Breadcrumb: 1. Harvest 2. A jar drops, a flower pops 3. Spume 4. Bread crumbs for birds 5. Bottled up lover 6. Wash my teeth with fire 7. Small bucket of sand
Personnel: Breadcrumb: Giannis Arapis and Nikos Kordelis (guitar) and Giorgos Kokkinaris (bass)