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Vocal Group SONO

SONOrdic (2015)

4.7

June 26, 2015

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 5.0
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.7
Sound / Production 4.7
Repeat Listenability 5.0
Tracks
1 C'mon Talk - Vocal Group SONO 5.0
2 Dybt Vand (Deep Waters) - Vocal Group SONO 4.7
3 Hey Love - Vocal Group SONO 4.3
4 Trouble Is - Vocal Group SONO 5.0
5 Hyperballad - Vocal Line 5.0
6 En Linedanser (A tightrope walker) - Vox11 4.3
7 Find the Way - VoxNorth 4.3
8 A New Day - Songs of the Moment 4.7
9 My Future Self - Postyr 4.7
10 Raindrops (Morten Bytofte Remix) - Vocal Group SONO 5.0

Recorded 2014
Total time: 40:56, 10 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 C'mon Talk - Vocal Group SONO 5
2 Dybt Vand (Deep Waters) - Vocal Group SONO 5
3 Hey Love - Vocal Group SONO 4
4 Trouble Is - Vocal Group SONO 5
5 Hyperballad - Vocal Line 5
6 En Linedanser (A tightrope walker) - Vox11 4
7 Find the Way - VoxNorth 4
8 A New Day - Songs of the Moment 5
9 My Future Self - Postyr 4
10 Raindrops (Morten Bytofte Remix) - Vocal Group SONO 5

SONOrdic is a uniquely distracting experience. What group is singing now? What song is this? Wait, I mean what song does it remind me of? Is that the same song or another one? And wait, who's singing now?

The allusions seem endless, in the way that all pop songs sound alike whether they mean to or not. This disc would not quit turning my head. Is that a show tune? No, no, I got it! It's Kiss From a Rose! Actually it's neither; it's A New Day, by Danish musician Kristian Skårhøj, featured here as one of SONO's guest performers with his Songs of the Moment project. Elsewhere on the disc, I am repeatedly jarred alert by the unmistakable chorus that "We are family! I got all my sisters with me!" But no, it's a soundalike chorus in En Linedanser, a cover of Danish singer-writer Oh Land.

Once you start listening for parallels, it's hard to stop. Raindrops reminds me eerily of Baxter's Television, a Swedish electronics number I was obsessed with for two months in the late '90s. Is C'mon Talk by One Direction or is it the Backstreet Boys or one of those other boy bands that I can't tell apart? None of the above! It's by Norwegian Jarle Bernhoft, a 39-year-old live-looper who looks 17 and was apparently nominated for an R&B Grammy. I rather prefer the SONO version, as the most interesting part of the song is hearing all the different voices take a turn on the hook. And what about Hyperballad! That sounds just like — oh, it actually is a Björk song. 

Trouble Is, one of my favorites, doesn't sound like anything except itself. It's a beautiful arrangement, full of tempo changes and big chords. When I finally Googled the original, it turns out none of the SONOrdic singers can match the intensity of Turboweekend's golden-voiced and incredibly beautiful lead singer. But otherwise I like this version better. The song itself isn't much to work with, so charisma is everything.

Denmark seems to be crawling with singing talent, or at least this album does an admirable job of sorting out the best parts of the population. SONO alternates tracks with five guest groups on this album. I have to say, I would not have been able to tell without the album notes to guide me — each track sounds smooth, consistent, and harmonious with the others.

I say this a lot in a cappella land, but it's especially true here: if you like this kind of music, you'll like this music. Just maybe try not to think about it too hard.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 C'mon Talk - Vocal Group SONO 5
2 Dybt Vand (Deep Waters) - Vocal Group SONO 4
3 Hey Love - Vocal Group SONO 4
4 Trouble Is - Vocal Group SONO 5
5 Hyperballad - Vocal Line 5
6 En Linedanser (A tightrope walker) - Vox11 4
7 Find the Way - VoxNorth 4
8 A New Day - Songs of the Moment 4
9 My Future Self - Postyr 5
10 Raindrops (Morten Bytofte Remix) - Vocal Group SONO 5

Vocal Group SONO is a shining example of the rhythmic choir sound flourishing in and emanating from Aarhus, Denmark. Like some Greek mythological creature, the group has the size and power of a 24-person choir, the intimacy of a small contemporary group, the edgy drive of a beatboxer (and sometimes programmed drums), the raw energy of a pop rock star, and the chordal density of a jazz ensemble. SONO performs one or two to a mic, and the live sound is staggeringly awesome. The dynamics stun and the blend is luscious. The problem for SONO is squeezing its voluminous awesome into the recording studio. The result is very good and sometimes excellent, but still running second to the live show. Some portion of this falls on production work — which, while respectable, creates a sonic world that's a hair too narrow to capture SONO. But this isn't always the case, nor is it always fatal. And since SONO shares nearly half of this album with Nordic guest stars, the sonic arsenal here is impressive. When the stars align, the group and its spectacular guests are nothing short of spectacular.

This album features contributions from the Nordic area’s best vocal groups: Vocal Line, Vox 11, Postyr, VoxNorth, and more. And so unified are the root influences that the album remains perfectly cohesive, despite its many varied artists. More than being unified, the tracks are some of the strongest from this region.

Take Trouble Is, a driving thriller that exercises enviable patience as it slowly unfolds beneath a powerful lead to heart-stopping, meaningful chords on "Oh me!". Take Bjork's Hyperballad, which bring you to tears with its beautiful struggle. Soaring harmonics, perfect blend, and leads that express a wrenching passion. And then take My Future Self, a drop of pure Postyr perfection, mixing the purely human with the realm of machine.

When scores fall — and they don't fall far — it's really for want of more. More dynamics. More soloistic boldness. More intensity. But the path SONO and its guests have chosen is always satisfying. The artistic vision is always cohesive. The voices, always exceptional.

If your travels take you to Denmark, catch SONO. Catch any one of their star-studded line-up of guests. If not, at least catch SONOrdic.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 C'mon Talk - Vocal Group SONO 5
2 Dybt Vand (Deep Waters) - Vocal Group SONO 5
3 Hey Love - Vocal Group SONO 5
4 Trouble Is - Vocal Group SONO 5
5 Hyperballad - Vocal Line 5
6 En Linedanser (A tightrope walker) - Vox11 5
7 Find the Way - VoxNorth 5
8 A New Day - Songs of the Moment 5
9 My Future Self - Postyr 5
10 Raindrops (Morten Bytofte Remix) - Vocal Group SONO 5

I don't toss around the phrase "a must-own album" lightly, but SONOrdic merits this distinction. Hosted by Vocal Group SONO, whose own music bookends this release, SONOrdic showcases favorite hits from acclaimed Danish a cappella groups Vocal Line, Vox 11, Postyr, VoxNorth, and experimental vocal work from Songs of the Moment, a collaborative "group" from seven nations. The whole release is an absolutely lovely, joyful, riveting, smooth, enlightening, impressive, super good time.

You're going to play this album a lot, because it's equal parts addicting, fascinating, and entertaining. Thoughtfully and artfully presented, we begin our Nordic vocal tour with a four-pack of slick and funky beats from SONO. C'mon Talk is chill and crisp; Dybt Vand is warm and mysterious. Hey Love makes you shake your hips; Trouble Is inspires and haunts. If this is your first introduction to SONO, it's a mighty fine one, packed up in four sweet tracks.

We switch gears in our flag-waving tour to listen to Vocal Line deliver Björk next. The group's rendition of Hyperballad is elegant and daringly complex, full of contrasting extreme sonic density paired with wide open spaces. The masterful lead, presented with wild and wonderful emotions, pulls the neat arrangement up to a higher stratosphere. The bravery and vulnerability on display makes Hyberballad my favorite track.

Next, Vox 11 contributes En Linedanser, an enveloping and enchanting piece that works nicely to anchor the middle of this release.

The mood changes swiftly for Find the Way, a percussive piece with a deep groove and tribal-like vocals from VoxNorth. Nearly hypnotic with free form vocals swirling above and below, VoxNorth gives us a new kind of spiritual to enjoy and bask in.

A New Day is part of a 12-movement work from an ambitious and lengthy vocal project, which in total features 120 singers. If big a cappella collaborations interest you, I direct your attention to Songs of the Moment.

The a cappella darlings from Postyr sing us into the Cool and Hip Place with My Future Self, which unleashes some playful production choices to enhance our talent marveling.

Our hosts SONO circle back around to close out the show with Raindrops. This is a remix from the group's catalog, and it's absolutely oozing with spunk, sass, and atmosphere. In my mind, this track loops at an exclusive club by the group's home in Denmark, where all the cool kids must go to unwind.

If you were going to put together a sampler collection showcasing the flavors of a cappella from your homeland, what would you include? Congratulations and "thank you" to the members of SONO for creating such a varied and thoughtful release from their region.

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Ordering Information

Price: 100 DKK (15 USD) + shipping. Send an email to cd@sonovokal.dk stating your name, address, and number of CDs you wish to purchase.

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