sonar on decks

(originally published in the June 2005 issue) written by Sonar ~ compiled by Brent Crampton ~ photo courtesy of DJ Sonar

Matthew J. Rissi, aka DJ Sonar’s fascination with rhythm and music began at an early age after his father had given him a dual tape deck and a stereo for his tenth birthday. Matthew was immediately addicted to the sounds of synthesizers and drum machines, and couldn't resist the temptations of wanting to be on a dance floor.

Through hip hop culture, Sonar was introduced to the rave scene in Arizona. Shortly after this discovery, Matthew and his family moved to Iowa. He began DJing on his own in ‘97 and completely focused all of his efforts on establishing an understanding what it takes to become an avid performer. He would find himself traveling all over the eastern part of the country to watch internationally respected DJs work their magic behind turntables for crowds of people up into the thousands. He was in love - in love with techno, the environment that it provided, the feeling that it gave him, and the way that it blessed him with something that made nothing else matter.

From the basement, to the house party, to the all night music event, Matthew found himself wanting more. Naturally he was inclined to start his own production company, “Solar Cathedral Productions.”
Having played along side names such as Dieselboy, Grooverider, Richie Hawtin, Woody McBride and Terry Mullan, Sonar’s mixes have gained him much respect, subsequently getting him booked throughout the Midwest.

Through his promotions under the guise of Solar Cathedral Productions, Sonar has played a part in bringing international talent into Iowa such as Tommie Sunshine, Donald Glaude, Derrick Carter and Frankie Bones.
Pulled From Perversion is Matthew's latest mix CD, a compilation highlighting memorable tracks played by Sonar at the infamous Perversions of Science event series. Scheduled to be released in June, the mix more than likely sell out fast. But is providing you an exclusive mp3. So grab it in the month of June while it’s hot!

Track Listing
  1. Nathan Fake/The Sky Was Pink(Holden Tool)/Electro Choc
  2. John Dahlback/Eastern Light/Immigrant
  3. Hugg & Pepp/Mazarin/Dahlback
  4. Unit 4/Bodydub(TiefschwarzRMX)/Clone
  5. The Gritsch & Royal TS/Techno Tanzen!/White Label
  6. Misc/Status Now/Kompakt
  7. Vanguard/1 Bit Bass/Frisbee
  8. John Dahlback/The Bad Giant/Giant Wheel
  9. Jesper & John Dahlback/Sundin Lost In The K-Hole/Turbo Rec.
  10. Basteroid/Reaching Betriebstemperatur(Sonar Re-Edit)/Areal
  11. Jens/Never Be The Same(Jesper Dahlback RMX)/Shallow Cutz
  12. The Hacker/Radiation/Goodlife
  13. Tiefschwarz/Ghostrack(Blackstrobe RMX)/Four Music
  14. Gregor Tresher/Firebutton/Datapunk
  15. Ferro(W.J.Henze & Toni Rios)/Redes Privadas Virtuales/Danza Electronica
  16. Anthony Rother/Bodytalk/Cocoon Rec.
  17. Anthony Rother/Father(Sonar Re-Edit)/Datapunk
  18. Sven Vath & Anthony Rother/Komm/Cocoon Rec.
As in the words of Sonar:

Keep in mind that this is a compilation of tracks that I played at three different events. For 'PS1' I played at three a.m., right after Frankie Bones, who had just laid down a wild-ass ‘96 styled 'ardcore techno set. So, I had to come with the heat. At 'PS2' I played the 11 p.m. slot right before my partner, the Goat, who had planned on playing a fairly hard techno set. We also had Chris Liebing out from Germany who BEAT the shranz' style techno. I tried to play a little more 'electro-ish' to add diversity to the line-up. For 'PS3' I opened up the nine p.m. slot with some stripped down minimal techno.” For this show, we had Derrick Carter out, so we had a lot of house heads in the building. I figured that a minimal set was perfect for getting the crowd started. With that being said, this 75-minute mix has a little bit of everything that I have to offer.

Now . . .

The first track that I play on this mix is by far one of my favorites. It reminds me of something that I've heard Hawtin play at about five in the mornin' in Detroit, right about that time where absolutely EVERYONE in the building has just lost their minds. It's some of that minimal funk, but at the same time, it's so dance floor. The shit moves me. The programming of all of the blips ‘n' bleeps is just ridiculous. I absolutely love it. I figured that playing something like this early in the mix would set the perfect tone.

The track that I play after that is a John Dahlback tune that has a real “housey” feel. For those who know me, I don't really play house - at all - unless you catch me laying down one of my two and a half hour residency sets at “Orbitz” here in Cedar Rapids. I'm a techno guy, and I really like to conduct an electronic energy, but this is one of those tracks that puts that shit aside, and just gets inside of me. Lately I've been dabbling into the realms of soul, and depth, and this jam just swims way out there. The sounds on this record just remind me of sunsets, or better yet, sunrises! This is the kind of stuff that I want to hear after I've been taking a beating on the dance floor all night. It will get me moving no matter what.

Next up, I laid down a Jesper & John Dahlback piece called “Mazarin.” I think that it could also be an “opener” track, but it really helps set a certain mood in my mind after a small warm up. I actually opened with this cut at “PS2,” and the crowd really got into it quick. The vocal on this track is very hypnotizing, and combining it with that little acid riff just made for a perfect combo. The base line starts out very nicely, and out of the blue drops a few octaves giving listeners that little push that will keep them listening to the track until it's over. I absolutely love this track. The break in the middle gives you a little chance to take some deep breaths before it picks up again, but it never really “takes-off.” It really gives the DJ a chance to lay something on top of it that is going to win over an audience.

After the break, I decided to bring in the Tiefschwarz remix of Unit 4's “Bodydub.” This is one of those tracks that will permanently imbed itself in your brain. The shit is butta! So clean, so pretty, so dance floor. I mix it in really smooth using the filters on the Allen & Heath to sweep the melodies in and out. When the base line drops, I get the chills . . . seriously. I think that I actually played this out of the “Mazarin” cut at “PS2” and the b-line drop absolutely made the dance floor come alive. Just when you don't think that it can get any better, the main bleepy riffs kick in with the claps and movement becomes alive. I can safely say that this record is in my all time “top 5's.” Love it.

Next I start to bring out the techno in me. I play Gritsch's “Techno-Tanzen.” This is one of the last tracks that I played at “PS1.” It's sort of a “wet behind the ears” crowd pleaser. It's the kind of track that newcomers would really get into. A lot of your more established techno heads won't really get into this track because it's a bit amateur - but I like it. The synth-line is gritty, and if it's played on a proper sound system, it will turn ANY dance floor out. Nuff said!

Then we take you to Germany. Anyone who knows anything about techno is down with the “Kompakt” sound. It's a bit more stripped down and not as bangin, but it's VERY dance floor friendly. You hear dudes like Sven Vath, Hawtin and Villalobos canning the shit out of stuff on this label. It's quality. This release is a bit more mathematical than some of the “speicher” series releases, and that's why I like it. I'm very in tune with the timing of my mixes, and this cut is very DJ friendly. It's got a nice breakdown, and the pattern changes are pretty obvious. It's got a catchy little acid riff that will have even the most jaded of techno fans bobbin' their heads. GO GET IT!

The next track that I play is a killer. I opened with it at “PS1.” It’s the sickness. You see, we had asked Frankie Bones to play an “old-skool” rave anthem set, and he did. We're talkin' 150 BPM fist-in-the-air techno. I knew that the crowd was going to catch a beating from him, and I was going to catch a peak-hour audience when he was finished. I wanted to play slower, around 135 BPM's, but I still wanted to play material that captivated a rougher audience. I thought that an explosive opening was something that I NEEDED to keep their attention. This track was the answer. Paired with a 70-foot WALL OF BASS, vanguard blew the roof off of that joint! I swear that I could have just played this cut alone, and walked away from a happy audience. The one-bit base is SERIOUS. It hurts people.

Up next I drop this “Giant Wheel” cut. I wouldn't normally play anything off of this label due to their outstanding ability to release super-cheesy trance anthems with samples of crowds going crazy over rolling snare drum build ups. However, this jam is different. It's a bit ravey, but the base kick had me locked. The patterns on that drum are simple, yet so effective. It makes me want to “break a neck!” That's all that I've got to say about that!

Once again, I drop another Dahlback piece (do we see a pattern developing here?). I've really been into these dudes lately, and it just so happens that I played a bunch of their cuts at this series, explaining why so much of their work is on this CD. This shit's on Tiga's infamous Turbo Record label, and I think that it's the bomb! I actually chose to play this track because of how I thought that the acid line would work with the lights at our shows. The sounds on this record just give me a visual full of intelligent lighting. I don't know - I guess that I'm a bit weird like that. The tone on this release is a bit breakey, but it's layered over a 4-4 beat, which is the best of both worlds in my opinion. Who's got the juice now?

Now we begin to get a little gritty. This Basteroid record is in every way shape and form, SLAMMIN'. Heavy on the base, dark on the tones, meant for the warehouse. This track was perfect for “PS1” as we held the event in an armory. It was like the days of old, huge sound, huge lights, huge visual screen and a huge vibe. This piece was meant to be played in that environment. I think that I flipped two copies of it, got a little cocky for the audience. Ya know? It worked well, and the mood in the room began to shift. A few people told me that I began to look possessed when I started playing this stuff. I'll bet it's true. The dark tones just consume me. I turn into a visual display of the noises that are coming out of the speakers. Youngin's get scared and tough guys start to jack!

After the heat, I drop a “Jens” gem on “Shallow Cutz.” It's got a bit of a girly vocal sample, but it's completely balanced out by insanely nasty acid stabs that defecate the dance floor. I really like the clap. I think that it's got a dull rim shot laid over the top of it that gives it the perfect texture. Midway through the track a bunch of tones ring throughout that remind me of Speedy J's remix of Adam Beyer's “Ignition Key.” Very inspirational. I naturally close my eyes when I hear them. They just give me a very deep feeling. Anytime I've ever played this record live, the crowd has always given me great response. It has the capability to reach inside of you only to stir up feelings that you didn't think a techno record could stir up. Sexy!
Now back to the dance floor. Next, I play a “Hacker” track that is very taunting. I can't really explain it, it's techno, but it's electro . . . I don't know. The vocal samples on it sound like they were recorded in an old gothic church. Sick. Everyone that hears this track gets moving. It's quite attractive for even the most hard to impress electronic music listeners. It's not too intricate of a track, a bit simple actually. But it's so effective. I drop it right off of the scratch so it's the only mix on this CD that I would call sloppy, but very few notice. Tell me what you think!

Blackstrobe, blackstrobe, blackstrobe . . . What are we going to do with this guy? I've been canning his shit for a few years now, ever since his remix of Dave Clarke's “What Was Her Name” came out. His tone is very signature, sort of like Johannes Heil. You can hear a couple bars of any of their tracks and immediately know that they produced them. It's definitely on the electr side of the fence, and dance floors eat it up. This is one of those records that you can use to get peoples attention. The formula is standardized but at the same time it's unique and extremely catchy - a crowd pleaser for sure.

After Blackstrobe I play this Gregor Treshor release. I would assume he's German, but I really don't know. I can honestly say that I play this track for the vocal. The shit is punishing, it makes me feel like I'm part of some cult that I really shouldn't be running with. All of the drum programming and kick patterns sound like Gregor was highly influenced by none other than the great Johannes Heil. I know that they both do work for “Datapunk,” and I've been a big supporter of this label since I heard Johannes' “This World.” If you don't already know, look out for this label as they are about to be dominating the German electro scene.

Now I start to get back to the techno with this hot pick off of the new Danza Electronica label. W.J Henze and Toni Rios aka Ferro bring the pain with this stormer titled “Redes Privatas Vertuales.” The shit is foul. It's got a bit of a “Murder Was The Bass” feel through out the main bar. 13 But I really like the noises in the intro. I played this track closer to the end of my set at the “PS2” show with Chris Liebing. The sound system that we had that night was insane, and when I laid off of the filter to drop that bass, the crowd erupted. Put a smile on my face, that's for sure. I've heard some tracks sound really good from behind the decks, but this one took the cake.

Enter Anthony Rother. This guy is making moves - seriously. I've been on top of all of his releases lately, and I've never been let down. He's a staple in the electro scene, but his techno just kills me. When I play this live, it's always the track that everyone asks me about. “Hey Sonar, what the hell was that shit that was like, 'BODY-MOVE, BODY-TALK'!?” Sometimes I don't want to tell them, because I haven't heard too many people around here playing this stuff. It doesn't really matter though, because in Europe they can't keep enough copies of Rother's music in stock. Cocoon is a sweet label, and you've got to put trust into anything that Sven puts his stamp of approval on. BOOYAH!

Once again, I drop another Rother cut. “Father” is one of my faves. It really has the ability to pull a crowd together. It's sort of an anthem track. I play my own personal re-edit of this release because I felt the need to cut out a few parts that I didn't agree with. It just got a little repetitive for me. This shorter version seems much more effective, and sets me up for an explosive mix out of it.

And last but most definitely not least, Sven Vath and Anthony Rother's “KOMM.” This piece is by far the sickest track on the CD! I can't even begin to explain the visual that I got when I first heard this tune. It painted a picture in my mind - a picture of a landscape so vast that I will in no way do it justice by using English diction to try and explain. Just listen to it. I had to play it last because I really don't think that I have a record that is powerful enough to play afterwards. This is what I call music, and precisely why I love this thing that we call techno.

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