Sonia Dada - Test Pattern
After the recent STUK interview, Ex-Alice Cooper Bassist / Songwriter / Producer Erik Scott kindly sent me a copy of the latest album by his current band, Sonia Dada, to take a listen to, with the kind disclaimer that I didn`t have to like it! So here's a STUK introduction in to the world of Sonia Dada as they were when this album was recorded.
First up, that packaging. Very nice. It seems we can only dream of an Alice Cooper album getting this treatment. For a start you get a very cool free DVD included which features a 30 minute movie to accompany tracks from the album. Surreal and in parts not a little scary, the images really add immensely to the music. You can also watch the movie in two different versions, firstly as a normal movie, like an extended promo video, and secondly the same footage but with wierd digital effects mirroring the music being played. A cool idea and well with making sure you get the double pack if you buy.
The CD/DVD comes in a fold out card digipack. A striking cover image (which comes to life in the movie mentioned above) opens out to three panels with black and white photos related to the movie and two plastic inserts for the discs with the third panel housing the 12 page booklet which includes the lyrics and the other details you'd expect. Very nicely put together indeed, especially compared to the poor packaging on the recently released 'Dirty Diamonds'....
On inserting the CD in the computer (I play everything on the computer) you are presented with a "bandlink" window which appears to give you the chance to install a small program which gives you access to bonus material, interviews, pictures etc. Unfortunately It wouldn`t install properly on my machine, simply locking up, although that could be just my system. A nice extra though if it works normally (which I`m sure it does).
The CD itself starts with "The Moons Of Jupiter" which opens with an arabic-ish (?) chant before moving into a laid back groove that kinda reminds me of a cross between U2 and later Pink Floyd. Very relaxing and featuring diverse instrument sounds that mix an african/arabic feel to a more straightforward light rocksound. This leads straight into 'Saturday' with more arabic influenced sounds drifting over a repeating acoustic guitar. The music constantly moves without really becoming complicated. The only way I can think of describing it is that the basic track remains pretty much the same, simply repeating, but everything on top of that is constantly changing organically stopping it from sounding repetitive. Towards the end a nice acoustic motif appears with some cool fretless bass.
'Temple' is a more up front song with a heavier bass beat and wah guitar leading into a more up front vocal over a funky (think Fame-Bowie) song that bounces along nicely. More "pop" then the previous tracks with a great female vocal break in the middle. 'Gordon' shows off the advantages of having multiple vocalists with differing styles very well. The counterpoint between the different voices works very well as they weave in and out of each other. Another nice laid back track.
'Old Bones' is a soul/blues song with even a touch of country in the mix. Nice enough but doesn`t really stand out for me. And neither does 'Diggin' On the Road', the first track here with a Erik Scott writing credit. Another soul/blues song with a touch of gospel as well. Again not really my thing but bounces along nicely. 'Ragdoll' is a nice quiet tune with a lovely vocal line.
'Sundogs' is an short atmospheric instrumental, co-written by Erik with some very cool fretless bass playing. I far prefer this stuff to the more mainstream tracks on the album and this one ends far too soon.
'Take Back' (Erik co-write) rides along on a kinda reggae beat with some cool trumpet flourishes adding a jazzy feel to the track. Maybe Santana is the easiest reference point. I can imagine that if played live this could be stretched out to highlight the various musicians and singers.
'Light Out' (Erik co-write) is a little too gospel-like for my tastes. A slow ballad-like song. The playing is still uniformally excellent of course but this doesn`t do anything for me. However "Dark Visions", the track Erik picked out in his interview as a track for a Cooper fan to listen to, is more to my taste. It doesn`t sound like Alice of course but is possibly my favourite track on the album. Certainly the one that stuck in my mind after my first listen. A mid tempo song with a cool instrumental section in the middle and some almost Fripp-ish guitar sounds running throughout. Cool track. 'Sylvia' is a low key ending to the album with a quite little song
While not an album, or band, for the metalheads out there, fans with a taste for more laid back sounds could do far worse then pick up a copy of 'Test Pattern'. It's great music for relaxing on a summer evening while you let the sound wash over you. But when you do pick up a copy make sure you get one with the DVD as the combination of the music and visuals really elevates both to a higher level.
Find out more about Sonia Dada at their website.