Reviews

THE SPIRIT OF ELEGY 

Just sit back and let Sonny take you on a musical and spiritual journey to some place different and hopefully better!! Sonny's ambient way is luscious and hypnotic as he plays with your senses and caresses your soul. Luscious maybe but Sonny actually keeps things pretty simple and uncluttered and the result is as deceptive as it is honest - it thrills and it calms as the tracks unfold gracefully but poignantly and swill around the room cocooning the listener in rich and warm sound. Think early Tangerine Dream meets Terry Riley mixed with the subtle and soft vocal outpourings of Robert Wyatt, all brought into the twenty-first century by way of modern digital 'orchestration' and accompaniment. The overall feeling of Sonny's music is one of peace, harmony and tranquility - he takes you to places where you won't come to any harm, where things are positive and fulfilling. Sonny has a knack of bridging the gap between reality and dreams; he gently persuades the listener to place trust in him as he carries you to, and through, his world where all is well and all is good. Sonny's music isn't actually innovative - let's face it, ambient music has been around for donkey trousers. Sonny just does things a bit differently; he doles out big helpings of relaxation and pleasure in such a way that the listener seems to become part of the whole theme rather than just a mere outsider lucky enough to have come across Sonny's work. Sonny makes you feel as though you are actually inside his soundscapes, actually living his dream although what you take out of the experience is really dependent upon how much you choose to put in! But, here he gives you both the trills and warblings of the natural world alongside the beefy, rich and woody timbre of a reverberating church organ - extremes of sound yet somehow beautifully in balance and harmony - wonderfully rich, wonderfully rounded, wonderfully relaxing!! 'The Spirit Of Elegy' by Sonny is poetry through music, but it's not bright, happy themes that run through this work; as the title suggests, there's a certain sadness deep inside Sonny's electronic overtures. So, although 'The Spirit Of Elegy' could never be described as being up-lifting, it's still a rewarding and peaceful trip to take. Sonny's music here is haunting and at times dark, full of atmosphere, full of emotion, full of depth. 'The Spirit Of Elegy' by Sonny is one for the experimentalists. 'The Spirit Of Elegy' by Sonny is one for the dreamers. 'The Spirit Of Elegy' by Sonny is one for the hardened non-conformists. 'The Spirit Of Elegy' by Sonny is one for the open minded. So, is it your kinda thing? Who Knows - only you can answer that. At the end of the day Sonny's ethereal music is not gonna be to everyone's taste but if you do have any natural penchant for the beautifully weird and wonderful then why not try 'The Spirit Of Elegy' by Sonny - it's a brilliant work but it won't work for everyone! I love it - but I'm Toxic Pete! 

Peter Brown - Toxic Pete (Jun, 2008) 

Igniting a spiralling vortex of blissful sounds and delicately ambient drones, Sonny's most recent effort offers no less than a soothing melting pot of lush melodies and hypnotic charm. With idyllic tones and disturbingly tranquil vocals, each song is a masterpiece in its own right, sparkling in unison as the album pulls together, creating a mess of sound so perfectly peaceful and powerful - to cease listening simply isn't an option. Songs such as 'Light Houses for The Desolate" are flawless, created by encapsulating the talent and energy of acts such as Patrick Wolf and the faultless Sigur Ros, whilst offering a somewhat elitist musical relationship with the listener that no other act could merely imagine. This ten-track wonder excites the heart and enhances emotions, creating an atmospheric twist unachievable by so many of Sonny's peers. Offering the enamouring juxtaposition of being both soulful and leaving the listener somewhat empty, Sonny twists each song with a sparkle so seemingly spiritual, each song is left with a haunting glow. Something with such melancholy beauty shouldn't be left in the dark. All we need now is the light. 

Olivia Jaremi - Tasty Fanzine (Jul, 2008) 

It's rare that something comes along that is so far from the mainstream that it becomes hard to describe or draw realistic parallels to. That is, until an artist like Sonny chants his lyrics from your surprised speakers. His debut album, Spirit of Elegy, is laced with natural beauty and contains the sort of spine-chilling ambience of the likes of Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Ros. However, when combined with vocals that echo of Morrissey's dark influence over his work with a strange effeminate reminiscence of Annie Lennox's vocal tones, the ten-track album leans more towards gospel mantra than the chilled intoxicating sounds of the afore mentioned bands. Whilst Sonny's musical style is very much an acquired taste, his talent and complete originality that has developed immensely over the last four years, is undisputable. 

Laura R - The-Mag (Aug, 2008) 

Moving, sacred and at times heartbreaking, 'The Spirit Of Elegy' glows with a warmth that its creator has etched into every track. Sonny's style merits comparisons to The Cocteau Twins, 80s troubadours Tears For Fears and Depeche Mode. Despite those bands' failing popularity over the last decade, this cannot be a bad thing. Sonny is his own artist, however, and his form of gothic ambiance, though at times morbid, has its place in modern music (though not on a cell block on suicide watch). It is hard not to be drawn in by the haunting lullabies. The tone is sombre, peaceful but at times aimless, meaning the album not so much floats, but drifts from track to track with little change in the style where all those previously mentioned may have increased the tempo. Not quite 'Whale Song' for a new generation, but the tracks have a relaxing quality mainly due to Sonny's honey dew vocals. His foppish delivery adds to the introspective nature of the album and the ambient backing makes for easy listening in the wee hours of the morning or if you just fancy a good boo-hoo. With the increase of upbeat folk music in the UK at the moment, room may be made for a performer not afraid to embrace the ballad side of Celtic folk. The shortest track on the album, 'Solace', manages this beautifully and with a fusion of traditional and electronic it creeps into the subconscious. 'The Spirit Of Elegy' is not an easy listen, due to the brooding synth employed by the London based performer, but it certainly has some gems under its sorrowful crust. 

Carl Williams - Last Broadcast (Aug, 2008) 

The Spirit Of Elegy (Minimal-Escent) – Radiant plaintive minimal blend of considered simple rich vocals and ambient romanticism. Indeed a spiritual elegy – refined, crafted, restrained orchestral electronica with a slowly moving dark moody edge that gets somewhere near a gothy black cloud or two in a rather positive way. All rather beautiful and relaxing and bathed in "cathedral splendour" - slowly swirling goodness for Cocteau Twin fans who find Sigur Ros just a little too bright. Splendidly exquisite and warmly recommended. 

Sean Worrall - Organ Magazine (Aug, 2008) 

There are many breeds of chill-out and ambient electronica. There are the hard-core soundscapes, there are the spoken word trip-outs, and there are the beat-led noodlings (we'll skip over the Ibiza releases). There are a few surprises to be had in the ambient zone but sometimes you come across a record that is halfway between a record of Gregorian chant and Sigur Ros: like The Spirit of Elegy. The name gives an indication of what you can expect. The feel is ethereal and abstract and spiritual. Hypnotic, church-like vocals intone over minimal tonal shadings. Electric organ piano hums gently and expressively in a hugely spacious sound. Strings complement a sometimes charged and edgy energy. And it is music that genuinely brings you to its meditative level: it's Talk Talk without the rock out climax. Sonny is a North West Londoner and released his debut Twilight-World Music in 2004. The Spirit of Elegy is much less electronic and lacks the eastern feel of the earlier release, which Sonny attributes to the influence of English romanticism. This rich historical feel is evident in songs such as 'Earth and Dust' and 'The Affliction of Childhood' in particular, where the orchestral element is strong. A certain pensive brooding – which suits the sparse and hymnal sound — pervades the record. Tracks such as 'Lighthouses for the Desolate' and 'Mourning Mist' give themselves away in the name, perhaps. You could say this is emotive electronica without the Emo. If the Cocteau Twins, Sigur Ros and very lo-fi ambient muzak is your thing, then The Spirit of Elegy is one to stick on the record player. It is heartfelt, spaced out and cinematic. It is lush and delicate and centred. Just don't expect this album to put you in the party mood. It is a fine furlong further away from the party than Chillout Ibiza 2008. Something - and we think you'll agree - it's all the better for. 

Nicole Farrell - Bearded Magazine (Sep, 2008) 

North-West London based Sonny has moved with an ethereal quality into The Spirit of Elegy, a highly complex, reverential album of orchestral and instrumental beauty. Gathering its character, and indeed its soul, apparently from the centre of reflective seclusion, this is neither the easiest nor the least fulfilling album you will hear this year. Whether contemplating thoughts under sycamore trees or allowing highly spiritual echoed organ to emit as candle smoke from your speakers, Sonny is the very essence of an oasis of calm. This is the world of Enigma or Enya, of Sigur Rós, richly atmospheric in its own way even if complete concentration would either bring on a light snooze or the fidgety awkwardness following continued listening of chill-out compilation CDs. Sonny has a beguiling voice, with hints of eastern mysticism, although the pattern of each song means his distinctive style seems swept along too many similar paths. There are many beautiful moments left hanging in the air as a consequence of over-familiarity. Complexity and dream-like, The Spirit of Elegy is grown-up trance for the soul which feels like the world outside may well pause while you listen. Given how troubled things are at the moment, that could not be such a bad effect. 

Liam Pennington - High Voltage (Sep, 2008) 

This is a really hard one for me to review as I have nothing to really compare it to, although it has an ambient edge to it, its certainly not electronica, instead it's a finely crafted choral album that is unlike anything i've been sent before. Last year when I went to Venice, despite not being religious we visited a number of the really impressive, ornate churches and cathedrals in the city and the easiest way of describing the music from Sonny here is to say that it wouldn't sound out of place being played in those sort of settings. It's got a grandness to it, yet has a very relaxing feel to the music and the vocals that sound like the instruments are played and the vocals delivered from angels. That could be a good or a bad thing depending on your view of course, me, well for once I don't have a view. 

The Beat Surrender (Sep, 2008) 

'The Spirit of Elegy' is an oddity. In essence it's an ambient album, but there are vocals on most of the tracks that lift it from being purely a mood piece and into more general 'songs' territory. It's Sonny's second album, the previous one, 'Twilight-World Music', having been considerably more electronic. Apparently the new record is heavily influenced by the tradition of English Romanticism, something that's easy to believe – the artist namechecks both the Cocteau Twins and William Blake, neatly covering both ends of the romantic spectrum over the last 300 years. Sonny's voice is impossible to describe without resorting to the two adjectives kept in the cupboard specifically for this kind of post-rock music: "haunting" and "elegiac". As you might be able to guess, 'The Spirit of Elegy' is a very serious album. Most of the music is played on long drawn-out synth notes, with no percussion and very little other instrumentation – the piano notes introducing 'Lighthouses For The Desolate' bring a welcome change from the unrelenting waves of the previous tracks, as do the stabbed strings on 'The Affliction Of Childhood'. On its own it might have sounded rather fake – the instrumentation is not as complex as are the vocals, certainly. But it's those haunting vocals that give the record its point and purpose. It would be no surprise to find out that Sonny was a trained chorister – the vocals on some of the tracks, such as 'Earth And Dust', are not far away from those to be found in a cathedral cloister near you. On other tracks, such as 'Lighthouses For The Desolate' and 'The Body Attains the End Which Comes To Us All', though, Sonny sounds more like Antony Hegarty (as in "and the Johnsons"). It's hard to know where to place this album. 'The Spirit of Elegy' is no mainstream record and it's not going to get much radio play. Neither of those are bad things, of course, but in this case the main problem is that it's hard to tell several of the tracks apart from each other, so similar are they in style and delivery. The sparse instrumentation and plaintive, lonely vocal style will not be to everybody's tastes, but if you've been waiting all your life for someone to blend ambient soundscapes with plainchant vocals – well, this is it. 

Anthony Dhanendran - Penny Black Music (Oct, 2008) 

Prepare yourselves for an album so far detached from anything else this year that it makes Sigur Ros sound like The Pigeon Detectives. The term ‘concept album’ doesn’t do Sonny justice, as these 10 ‘compositions’ go to show. ‘The Spirit of Elegy’ dares to go further than most artists will endeavour, comprising music which relies not on lyrics or hooks, but on the minimalist combinations of sounds. I know it’s becoming a cliché, but Sonny is one artist who truly does use the voice as another instrument. Admittedly the album will not be to everyone’s taste, with opener ‘The Mourning Mist’ in particular likely to prove a challenge to the attention spans of the NME generation, but Sonny seems to grow in confidence as the album progresses, rewarding the listener with increasingly ambitious music which shows a level of versatility not necessarily foreseeable on the strength of the first two or three tracks. Although it is difficult to wholly appreciate ‘The Spirit of Elegy’ without listening to it in its entirety, certain tracks do stand out. Most notably, Light houses for the Desolate, which could be likened to a pared down version of Interpol’s already minimalist ‘The Lighthouse’ (if such a thing is possible). Sure the album drags at times, and sure some people would rather listen to something average that they know they like rather than challenge themselves with something different for fear of disappointment, but Sonny offers us a chance to listen to something unique, and in an environment where popular music often lacks originality, this is refreshing if nothing else. 

Tom Victor - Glasswerk (Mar, 2009) 

I think I chose the wrong time of the year to listen to this Londoner, Sonny. His music doesn’t match with sunshine and light. Springtime is not his time of the year. This is because 'The Spirit Of Elegy' is a part of a cold and gloomy Victorian universe. His music sounds obscured and dark like the morning fog that covers the lakes of the English countryside. The only thing that seems to disturb the calmness of water and the rustle of leaves are the passing whispering sounds of human nature and the eerie sound of the bell. It’s a place where everything is painted in sepia colour and lit by the twilight. These seem to be Sonny’s favourite landscapes. This is enhanced by his choice of photos that accompany the CD, the various song titles, the calligraphic lyrics that seem to be written out with a quill and the CD titles that are comprised as if they are letters written on a tombstone. Sonny could be the unborn child of Cocteau Twins and William Blake or the male alter ego of Kate Bush or even the long gone brother of Sigur Ros. Like a dark pixie, he sings between the tree-leaves and grave shadows. The result would have been unbearably darksome if it wasn’t covered under a veil of unreal poetry that brings upon an allure of 19th century English Romanticism. His solemn voice and his use of Gregorian vocalisms predominate in the hypnotic sound setting of ambient electronics, simple and plain strings and organ. A refined and meaningful sound that unfolds through an extraordinary melancholic but yet beautiful orchestration, which unreels like a cinematographic trip through Sonny’s favourite places and framing pieces like 'Frost Fair (London Elegy)' and 'Earth and Dust'. 

Elafini - Muzine Magazine (Jun, 2009)

 

FROST FAIR (Single)  

Taken from Sonny's excellent album 'The Spirit Of Elegy', 'Frost Fair' is a beautifully ethereal 'song' that typifies Sonny's reflective and expansive ambient style. Simple in form but complex in its effect on the mind, 'Frost Fair' calms and soothes the senses as wonderfully gentle sounds ebb and flow behind beautifully chilled voices; close your eyes, sit back and relax and let Sonny's music carry you away to that special place that only you know, where you feel safe, secure and fulfilled. 'Frost Fair', as is most of Sonny's music, is superbly suited for film soundtracks; modernistic sounds that won't detract from visual impact but rather embolden the mood and enhance the atmospherics, music that's descriptive and evocative as well as cosseting and innovative. 'Frost Fair' isn't exactly hypnotic but it is restful and thought provoking; Sonny has a knack of caressing his way into your mind in an unforced, welcoming way - Sonny's ability to conjure up imagery and visions is remarkable, he allows you to feel and see things your own way, his music simply guiding you through suggestion rather than with bold statement. 'Frost Fair' is very much what you want it to be and what you allow it to be; call it pastoral, call it choral, call it what the hell you like but, just take it on board and sense its warmth and sensitivity and enjoy Sonny's sonic soundscape on your own terms. 'Frost Fair' by Sonny is as good as it gets; modern 'classical' music for the heart and soul, a kind of contemporary overture for the mind - wonderfully alluring and beautifully sensitive - you really have to experience it to understand it!  

Peter Brown - Toxic Pete (Jan, 2008)  

Pretty topical given the main news this week that the UK is incapable of spreading a bit of grit on the roads when it snows. I remember when we had proper winters and the Thames used to get frozen solid every winter. The ice would be so thick that special Frost Fairs were set up on the river and one year it was so cold the ice was able to take the weight of an elephant walking across it. Eeee. But I digress. Sonny's 'Frost Fair' is an ethereal piece – very evocative of a misty Victorian morning over the Thames but not in any kind of hackneyed folk way. The airy choral vocals are massively reverbed and just sit over a constant guitar loop. It's so pure sounding it could have been sung by castrato. Beautiful and completely unlike anything else you are likely to hear at the moment. Now, did I tell you about the time the snow drifted over the top of the lampposts?  

Tasty Fanzine (Feb, 2009)  

SINGLE OF THE WEEK  

Haunting ethereal beauty, warm echoes, a one track single (he has a couple of albums out). We’re in classic twilight 4AD Cocteau Twins, Scott Walker territory with the shimmering and the melancholic vibrancy, the understated whispered delicate restrained and the glowing colour. Something rather different, uplifting sadness, cinematic, all kinds of clichéd words used in reviews like this, words that point you vaguely in a direction without really doing this beautifully fragile single any kind of justice, but these are the days of the internet, instant gratification and there’s the link and you don’t need our words when your curiosity can take you right there right now.  

Organ Magazine (Feb, 2009)  

Taken from last autumn's cracking long-player, The Spirit Of Elegy, Frost Fair seems an unlikely sound for any seven inch, let alone your first one ever. But all antipathy melts instantly with the senses as they dissolve in the face of beauty (we're dealing with feelings here); reeling in at just short of four minutes long, Sonny's debut is definitely the stuff of daydreams. A rejection of the radio friendly-fire big-hitting 4/4 pop hook verse/chorus structure ensures that this fair shimmers its way to within touching distance of the big picture. Haunting and soothing all at once, it takes shape through reverb-heavy high keys and delicate percussion, and comes complete with outstanding vocals that can carry the weight of a heavy heart, no problem. Minimal-escent this may be, but the music is strong.  

Michael Roberts - High Voltage (Mar, 2009)

 

ILLUMINANT 

First impressions don’t always count, take as an example the soft seduction of the crystalline chiming dream washes that succulently freefall through the cavernous wilderness of ‘shine like silver’ their measured grace and murmur like heaven bound tonalities suggest as the press release rightly notes a mid way holding point between the lazily glazed dream pop accented angelic airiness of the Cocteau Twins and the frosted elegance of Sigur Ros though on a second listening we here are thinking there’s something of the amorphous soft prog psych artistry of the criminally overlooked Levitation about its wares. Atmospherically enhanced by what sounds like the stilled silence of snow burnt landscapes there’s an alluring hymnal reverence that seamlessly chills through to the core of the reflectively mournful ‘dew bright earth’ - its softly trod classical inclines pointing to the slow soft glowing radiance of Antonymes. The baroque like majesty of ‘everything was golden‘ tenderly hollows to the ghost like reflective caress of David Sylvian, tears stains trace a stirring and solemnly subdued introspective realization that recalls a forlorn mourning Morrissey comforted by the silken salutary opine of his sparring partner Marr’s crushed fret felt needlework albeit here as though the Smiths at their most head bowed, vulnerable and shyly withdrawn had been rephrased and endowed by a stately sense of monastic presence by a late 80’s 4AD dream team - this mortal coil, dead can dance et al. if you get this far without the feeling of being in awe and humbled by something truly tenderly tortured then the fixing glare of the heartbreaking and lonesome ‘wonder of snow’ may just cause your defences to buckle under the stress of its overwhelming ache as its tearful trail of bowing bowed chimes cripple with forlorn despair to an unanswered litany of prayers. Immense stuff. Due out next month ‘Illuminant’ will come pressed up on a CD housed in a limited edition book featuring lyrics and photographs. He is set to take the stage sometime next year.  

Mark - Losing Today (Oct, 2011)  

Well, there’s a surprise. I listened to this several times before fully reading the press release and it was only towards the final paragraph of the page that the game is given away that Sonny is in fact a guy. But such is Sonny’s gentle vocal touch and range that he has completely duped me. Or there is a guest vocalist at work. Who knows? Either way, although broadly categorised as dream pop, ‘Illuminant’ is a bit light on the pop and very heavy on the dream. The four tacks have an airy, ethereal feel to them which sees one slide into another with few distinguishing features apart from slightly differing baroque overtones. There’s only so much reverb and falsetto you can get away with in succession. Sonny does have a great tremulous voice though.  

SB - Tasty Fanzine (Nov, 2011)