The Chicago-bred rock nonet Sonia Dada goes Bollywood on "Test Pattern," opening its new CD with a lushly harmonized, microtonal pop spectacle called "Moons of Jupiter" that's nothing if not attention-grabbing. But the band's trademark sound, a relentlessly eclectic mix of rock, soul, gospel, folk and jazz, isn't displaced for long, which is both good and bad news.
First, the good. There's hardly a track on "Test Pattern" that fails to display Sonia Dada's broad stylistic reach and finely honed musicianship. With four strong vocalists, male and female, and a collective flair for genre-jumping, the band produces a sweeping and often striking sound. If the old-school harmonies on "Old Bones," the first single from the CD, don't win you over, stick around. Chances are several other tracks eventually will, whether it's "Ragdoll," a flower-child-like musing buttressed by South African townshiplike harmonies, or "Take Back," which evokes prime-time Temptations, or "Lights Out," awash in southern soul and gospel harmonies. And the bad news? Guitarist Dan Pritzker, who wrote or co-wrote all the music on "Test Pattern," is far more adept at conjuring moods than summoning emotions. As a result, several songs ultimately amount to nothing more than showcases for the band's diverse pop interests -- and that alone isn't always enough reason to keep listening.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Tuesday at Ram's Head Tavern in Annapolis and Aug. 7 at the Birchmere. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Sonia Dada, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8110. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)