SONAA are back on the road and will be releasing a brand new collection of songs this year – their second long player, Knots. The band’s sophomore album sees them breaking away from the acoustic roots of their debut album which lead them to tour twice with Mumford & Sons and support Laura Marling at Royal Festival Hall.
The Sons’ immersion in folk music was always more informed by guitarists like Dave Pajo, David Grubbs and Jeff Parker than by traditionalists. These influences, rooted in the city of Chicago’s pre-millennial post-rock, jazz and avant-pop scenes, are explored on Knots resulting in an album much closer to the band’s live sound.
The duelling fingerpicked classical guitars are still there, but they’re put through cranked up, needle-in-the-red valve amps. There’s still a bit of banjo, but it’s played with an e-bow and a slide so it sounds like a haunted Hammond organ. And there’s plenty of actual Hammond, giving the track “Come Run Fun Stella Baby Mother of the World” a kind of fairground darkness borrowed from Liars or Captain Beefheart.
Elsewhere the fragile strings of “Black Side of the River” evoke the still sadness of humanity epitomised by Arvo Pärt augmented by the weighty piano chords of Earth; “Big Bad Bold” sounds like These New Puritans started an earthquake in a burning symphony hall; “Cathy Come Home” demonstrates the band’s love of drone, unison and extended guitar techniques and ends up sounding somewhere between Tortoise and the scores of Danny Elfman; and aching closer “Heroine” sounds like Robert Wyatt sped up a track from Twin Peaks for Will Oldham to sing over.
At times soft and orchestral, at times crass and loud, Knots is always infused with beauty and tenderness: soulful, taunt, honed and with a new found love of kosmiche experimentation.
Knots’ expanded sonic tapestry is marshalled and woven with growing stature by SONAA’s chief song-writer, Jacob Richardson, whose meditative lyrical concepts and melodic craftsmanship mark him out as musician of genuine depth and gravitas whilst remaining as arcane and beguiling as Palace.
Rejecting notions of a fixed line-up, Sons of Noel and Adrian is more of a sprawling musical whirlpool centered around a few key members than a traditional band – a bit like Broken Social Scene, with whom two members of Sons toured last year as part of their horn section. The band members make up most of the renowned Willkommen Collective that spawned The Leisure Society, and the various members lend their talents freely to everyone from Damo Suzuki to the Laura Marling, with one Son a full time contributor to her band and as many as four playing with her on certain shows including last year’s Glastonbury Festival Pyramid Stage performance.
Such selfless creative interdependence is at the heart of the Willkommen Collective and Sons of Noel and Adrian. The results of their musical co-operative have yielded a sophomore effort that transcends their debut and positions them as one of 2012’s most unique and thrilling propositions: Knots see SONAA charting new, unexplored aural terrain as immersive an experience on stage as it on record.
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