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Test Pattern ()

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Some bands defy categorization on purpose; Chicago's Sonia Dada do it naturally. Their intoxicating blend of R&B, pop, and worldbeat has found them wrongfully lumped into the jam band scene, a genre that, while supportive, tends to pigeonhole artists indefinitely. Their latest, the ambitious Test Pattern, opens in a wash of tablas and "Bollywood" vocals before morphing into a sun-drenched Americana road trip led by the distinctive vocals of Sam Hogan, Michael Scott, and Paris Delane. Test Pattern works as a single song, flowing effortlessly between gospel-tinged soundscapes like "Saturday" and soul-jazz rave-ups like "Take Back." At times it's like a sequel to Prince's 1987 "everything including the kitchen sink" double-disc Sign 'O' the Times, if the Purple One had allowed Daniel Lanois to produce it. The slick production works because the material warrants it -- the down-on-your-luck "Gordon" is as warm as it is heartbreaking and the rolling thunder of percussion that fuels "Dark Visions" is vast and majestic. The sampled bombardes, bursts of mandolins and sitars, and truly sublime and soulful vocals keep Test Pattern from unraveling into a slick piece of adult contemporary refuse, something that could easily have happened had the members not been blessed with impeccable restraint. Swirling beneath each track is a multicultural symphony, but that symphony prefers to accompany the song rather than bury it in unnecessary pomp and circumstance. ~ James Christopher Monger, Rovi Hide synopsis

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