Belly Up – Sonder

written by: May 9, 2014
Album-Art-for-Sonder-by-Belly-Up Release Date: April 29, 2014


Belly Up, aka Adam Kowalczyk, churns out an incredible, mostly guitar-driven techno fest with his debut album, Sonder. The record is a work of art with a mishmash of electrifying drum and bass beats, energetic guitar rhythms, and a hint of acid jazz.

But that’s the just the beginning; Sonder is a beautiful collage of rich electronic instrumentals that hearken back to the days when a robust fusion of jazz, electronica, and rock music was at its peak.

It starts off with a computer-generated voice introducing the album: “Hello, my name is Kiss/Complete auditory integration system/I will be walking you through Sonder/I hope you enjoy your time here.” Belly Up uses the A.I. to share a more intimate and musically spiritual moment with its listeners. Kiss reappears randomly in a couple of songs, like “Rug Beats,” saying, “Pause/Listen to the sound of my voice/And follow my instructions/Just breathe, inhale…exhale.” Its instructions are set against a soft piano interlude, evoking a chill, laid-back vibe.

“Alley Almonds” is a classic electronic rock track with a spunky drum and bass line gelling well with the crunchy guitar riffs. The next track, “Arbitrary Art Deco Addition,” is one notch higher, with well-crafted, improvisational guitar melodies; fast, old-school drum and bass beats; and a lush soundscape that will remind avid jazz-rock buffs of Richie Kotzen’s famous album, The Inner Galactic Fusion Experience.

“Arbitrary Art Deco Addition” is a 3-minute piece that focuses on letting the instruments coexist gloriously. And if that song shows its elegance, “Sky Bagel” displays Belly Up’s ambition of concocting a colorful, yet heady cocktail of jazzy guitar chords, a double layer of vibrant keyboard notes, and noisy break beats chugging along.

Both “Alley Almonds” and “Arbitrary Art Deco Addition” will put fans of unbelievable bass maestro Adam Nitti and legendary jazz guitarist Pat Metheny in a blissful state of mind.

The slick songwriting and delightful melodies ease the burden of day-to-day life. There’s no instrument that overwhelms the others, no unnecessary lyrics, and none of the cheesy, Euro-techno auto tune that plagues too much of modern music.

“Sky Bagel” is a schizophrenic anthem with hard-hitting beats in the background juxtaposing the soulful guitar rhythms. Think of a DJ spinning those beats while Metheny rocks out with his guitar. Other tracks are influenced by nu jazz, like “Orange Peel Puddle,” whose chill wave soundscape complements Belly Up’s signature guzzling break beats.

Despite Sonder artfully touching on the jazz rock and electronic scene, it’s not a flawless piece of work. The break beats programmed into most of the songs become a little stale by the end of the album. Belly Up wisely restrains Kiss and doesn’t allow the robotic voice to become a nuisance. However, “Caution” is the most useless track on the album. Kiss spits out random binary code, which becomes quite irritating. The song doesn’t make sense and the monotone will definitely give some listeners a headache.

Still, Sonder should be applauded for providing an insanely rich musical mosaic of electronica, rock and roll, and jazz that has beaten a hasty retreat in recent years. Hopefully, Belly Up will inspire the next generation of musicians to pursue a fresh wave of fusion.

Belly Up – Sonder tracklist:

  1. “Welcome”
  2. “On Command”
  3. “Everywhere Trees”
  4. “Alley Almonds”
  5. “Arbitrary Art Deco Addition”
  6. “808’s and Hipshakes”
  7. “Different Lefts”
  8. “Orange Peel Puddle”
  9. “Sonder”
  10. “Leg Triangle”
  11. “Sky Bagel”
  12. “Gol’feesh”
  13. “No Rose”
  14. “Rug Beats”
  15. “Caution”
  16. “Cognative Dissonance”