ProgDay 2016

Sonar photo
with special guest David Torn

"Had MC Escher made music instead of drawing his famously impossible and perplexing perspectives, it would sound like Sonar."

SONAR is a avant-progressive, post-minimal band from Switzerland. Their name stands for SONic ARchitecture, which alludes to their intention of creating polymetric and highly structured sound sculptures.

Fusing a rigorous minimal esthetic with the power of a rock band, SONAR create sonic rituals unlike anything you have ever heard before. With their slow-build approach to dramaturgy and avoidance of conventional forms, they focus on collective group efforts and a deeper kind of interaction amongst their four members.

It's music, but not like you know it. Just about everything is different with SONAR: the sound, the harmonies, the rhythms, the whole musical concept. Their instantly recognizable sound is partly due to the special tuning of the guitars and the bass guitar to tritones (C / F# / C / F# / C / F#), an interval sometimes called the "devil in music" ("diabolus in musica"). A large proportion of their music is played using only the natural harmonics of these two notes, thereby creating a harmonically ambiguous musical microcosmos that the group calls "tritone harmonics" and that avoids conventional musical clichés. The group's rhythms are also highly unconventional and usually consist of multi-layered polymetric rhythms and isorhythms in mainly odd metres.

Sonar photo

SONAR's less-is-more approach is also mirrored in their choice of equipment: their music is always played live without any sequencers, loops or computers, using only two guitars, a bass guitar, three small amplifiers and a basic drum kit. They are just as comfortable playing in a small living room as on a big stage in front of 1000 people. Nearly effect-free (with just a touch of reverb), the band does this to keep the music as clear, direct and immediate as possible. SONAR does not consider itself or operate as a collection of soloists; rather, their efforts are oriented towards making the music more than the sum of the individual parts of the players.

By using unusual harmonies as well as complex and layered polyrhythms the group ultimately aims to let their listeners re-experience the mystery, power and magic of hearing music for the first time.

Sonar photo

In 2012, they released their first CD, A Flaw of Nature, on Nik Bärtsch's Ronin Rhythm Records label as well as the four track EP Skeleton Groove and the digital live album Live at Bazillus. Cuneiform records released their second full-length CD Static Motion in 2014. Their third album, Black Light, was recorded and mixed by acclaimed producer David Bottrill and released by Cuneiform in 2015 on CD and vinyl.

With financial support by PRO HELVETIA and FONDATION SUISA

Prohelvetia logo

Foundation Suisa logo

On The Web:

Sonar Official Web Site
Sonar on Bandcamp
Sonar on Cuneiform Records

David Torn photo by Joseph Lima
David Torn photo
David Torn

The upcoming release by SONAR, Vortex, was produced by David Torn. He also performs on the album. ...So it just seemed natural to have David sit-in with the band at their ProgDay performance. Thank you to David for his interest in the idea, and working with us to make it happen.

Born in Amityville, NY in 1953 --- the Year of the Horror --- David Torn (aka, splattercell) is a guitarist, film-composer & producer, working with texture, high-contrast sound, spatiality & electronics in improvisational performance, music production & film-scoring since 1972.

Early life was filled with music & stories & electronic bits, his mother playing piano & writing, radio always playing Motown whenever Broadway show-tunes & jazz weren’t playing on the old tube-driven stereo-system which his father had co-design-engineered for the Harman-Kardon company,

David took classical piano, then drum lessons, until his mother gave him a nylon-string guitar; flamenco lessons ensued, & soon after "chord-melody" playing on guitar. He also attended Leonard Bernstein’s "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra"-series at Lincoln Center NY.

Around 1973, David re-joined the Zobo Funn Band, an adventurous “underground” pan-idiomatic almost-pop group which became a 6-year-long, daily cooperative as well as being a working foundation for his commitment to music. During that time, David also studied guitar, primarily with one of his heroes, John Abercrombie, & briefly with Pat Martino.

In autumn of 1979, he was invited by The Everyman Band to join with Don Cherry for just 10-days of a multi-month European tour. After a concert or two, Don asked David to remain in the band for the rest of the tour; Don’s influence on David’s propensity for pushing the sound & role of his instrument to more personal & broader sonic regions was profound, especially in regards to improvisational “composition” & “re-orchestration”.

The importance of his musical & personal relationships with key people are sometimes made obvious by time: many records with ECM / Manfred Eicher, tons with TIm Berne, 3+ records over 15 years with David Bowie, so much with Mick Karn (& with JBK), with Craig Street, so many records with CMP / Kurt Renker.

His own recordings include Best Laid Plans, Cloud about Mercury, Prezens & Only Sky (all on ECM), splattercell: OAH & remiksis (75 Ark), Tripping over God, What Means Solid, Traveller?, Polytown (CMP), Levin/Torn/White (LazyBones), DoorX (Windham Hill).
His cooperatively conspiratorial ensemble with Tim Berne & Ches Smith is recording for ECM in June 2017.

David’s contributive work has appeared on work with folks including Tim Berne, David Bowie, Jan Garbarek & Eberhard Weber, Jeff Beck, Mick Karn, David Sylvian, Sonar, B.L.U.E., Levin Torn White, John Legend, Michael Formanek, Tori Amos, Madonna, Matt Mitchell, Meshell Ndegeocello, Jarboe, Laurie Anderson, Kaki King, kd lang, Chocolate Genius, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Tony Levin, Bill Bruford, Jennifer Maidman, Gerald Cleaver, Julie Slick, Samuel Hällkvist, Drew Gress, Harvey Valdes, etc.

His 1st studio film-score, “The Order”, was nominated for a Grammy award. His substantial contribution to “Traffic” created for a groundbreaking & influential sound in scoring for cinema. Among others, David composed the scores for "The Light of the Moon", “Friday Night Lights”, “Lars & The Real Girl”, “The Wackness”, “Everything Must Go”, “That Awkward Moment”, “Saint John of Las Vegas”, "Jesus Henry Christ", “The Line (La Linea)", etc.

David has also played a creative role in scores of other film-composers, including for films like “The Big Lebowski”, “No Country for Old Men”, “Twilight (1 & 4)”, "Wonderstruck", “Reversal of Fortune”, “Love is the Devil”, “The Departed”, “Adaptation”, “Skins”, "The Fifth Estate" etc..

He was invited to speak & perform at TEDx CalTech’s conference, “The Brain”. He’s conducted Master-Classes at California Institute of the Arts & The New School (NY), and other workshops in the USA, England, Sweden, Japan & Brazil; meanwhile, some rumors have it that he’s just an oddly friendly character with a neurological twist or two, too.

David has also received at least a few fancy awards.

On The Web:

David Torn On Facebook
Splattercell on Facebook

Music To Check Out:

"Black Light" from Black Light:

"Static Motion" from Static Motion:

To hear music from all of this year's bands,
please visit the MUSIC page.



ProgDay is not responsible for the content on any external links.
All art on this website © Michael Bennett (, All rights reserved.


(Electric Tritone Guitar)

(Electric Tritone Guitar)

(Electric Tritone Bass)



Sonar New Release placeholder

Vortex (2017)

Black Light cover

Black Light (2015)

Static Motion cover

Static Motion (2014)

Live at Bazillus cover

Live at Bazillus (2012)

Skeleton Groove cover

Skeleton Groove (EP)

A Flaw Of Nature cover

A Flaw Of Nature (2012)


"Sonar is the sound of progressive rock/jazz of the highest and most exquisite quality and Black Light is an album that will enrich the lives of people who listen to music rather than those who merely hear it. – Album of the Year 2015."

"With progressive rock experiencing a significant resurgence, Sonar remains a rare outfit looking ever forward, with unrelenting emphasis on the true meaning of the word 'progressive.'"
- John Kelman,

"...the band’s new effort, Static Motion, is a revolutionary shot across the bow for what we might consider to be the possibilities of modern day guitar music. album that radically reinvents instrumental interplay in the (vaguely, at least) rock setting.... With so many forms of contemporary music seemingly satisfied to simply regurgitate weary and weathered tropes, Sonar has defied the norm by crafting something singular and magical."
- Jeff Miers,

"This quartet is unlike anything you've heard before. How often can you say you've encountered a truly unique act? Rarely. Here's one that qualifies."
- Anil Prasad

"Every so often a band comes into our sights and completely blows us away... SONAR performs music in its purest form which results in spellbinding performances (that) create a bold but harmonically enjoyable musical cosmos. This is truly music as you've never experienced it before and a one of a kind musical performance."
Liverpool, UK