EP REVIEW: Sonorpilot - "Mothership"
By: J.D. Stefan
Sonarpilot is the alter-ego of Swiss producer, musician and composer Michael Moppert. His new release “Mothership” is his ambitious return to his musical passions having left his position as CEO of a successful software company to focus on it. Moppert used to operate a small recording studio back in the 80s in his hometown of Basel in Switzerland and recently completed his first effort as Sonarpilot. According to Moppert, one can think of Sonarpilot as “the enigmatic captain of a futuristic vessel that explores remote sonic spaces.” Sounds intriguing! Mothership finds Moppert taking advantage of the massive technological advances in audio production that have occurred since his studio days. Most of the information on Moppert comes from his bio. At press time there was little to be found on the Internet in the way of his musical endeavors.
Mothership opens on disc 1 of a 2-disc release with the track “First Contact.” This appropriately-named track runs just shy of 23 minutes and explores a lot of sonic territory. The sonar pings set the stage for an atmospheric backdrop as Moppert weaves more sounds and themes in and around the listener. It’s an ambitious opening and spreading the tracks over 2 discs was a necessity since there are only 2 that come in under 5 minutes with most being in the 10-14 minute range. “First Contact” morphs its way from the ambient sections into a pseudo-techno piece with a pulsing upbeat rhythm track and clearly shows some Swiss techno influences. “Desert Song” picks up on the rhythmic themes and disc 1 rounds out with 3 more tracks, all showcasing Moppert’s composition and production abilities nicely. Disc 2 opens up with “Osaka” and takes the listener on a fairly eclectic journey that’s quite different than disc 1 but which still retains Moppert’s clear sonic signature. Disc 2 is more varied in its approach and covers a bit of Euro synth-pop flavor in “Planet Pop” and even offers up some loungy vibes in “Celtic Lounge”. A Simbad Remix of Osaka closes disc 2. The songs have interesting arrangements but don’t necessarily follow pre-conceived notions of typical modern music. There aren’t any huge hooks or melodies here but there’s a strong utilization of different sounds and textures to create interest and dynamics.
Moppert clearly knows his sounds and how to produce an album. The recording is great, the sounds clear and crisp and the production is stellar. He works deftly within the Electronica/Techno genre and is evocative at times of Tangerine Dream and their many successors but with more emphasis on the Techno rhythms. A double-disc effort is an ambitious debut but Sonarpilot pulls it off well. There’s a good vibe and feel throughout the album and I could definitely hear something like this keeping the atmosphere groovy in W Hotels across the country. A couple of the tracks have enough pulsing beats to perhaps find their way into the clubs too. The only drawbacks of the album for me are a few rather 80s-sounding tones and lack of strong melodies or hooks. The sounds certainly work and I’m sure they were intentional but with such an unlimited palette of compositional material available it would have been interesting to hear the sounds altered and given some new clothes here and there. I found the songs to be interesting due to their dynamics and the arrangements but even then I tended to lose focus on the songs after a few minutes without any strong hooks to pull me back in. The running time on the majority of the songs might be an obstacle for those today who are used to 3-minute songs but if you take the time you’ll find a lot to like on Mothership. Moppert’s goal was to create an album that could “blend into your nature environment” or “to chill at home” with. Mothership is an outstanding effort in that regard and Moppert should be profoundly happy with his efforts via Sonarpilot.
All in all Sonarpilot’s Mothership album is a great one for chillin’ out to and I think this will find a nice home in my iTunes collection for cocktail hour and as a great, moody backdrop for entertaining. If you like a dose of techno rhythms mixed with a lot of Euro synth sounds and texture, check out Mothership. And to Michael, we’re glad you quit your day job!
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