Ambient sensation Sonarpilot returns with yet another stunning slice of surreal audio incarnate in the all-new single “Citadel,” out now everywhere that independent music is sold and steamed. Sonarpilot doesn’t placate us with any of the banally dreary atmospheres that have become so commonplace in modern avant-garde music here; from the first movement of the music through to the song’s conclusion, the sonic poetry that comes sans a vocalist makes it obvious that the artist is invested in the content of his statement made here. The music has a familiar experimental quality to it that is inviting, but the arrangement of the instruments is anything but old school. Sonarpilot is really on top of his game, and this is among his best work yet.
The noise that ensnares us in the glowing textures of “Citadel” invades the stereo pretty hard, but it’s understated in the grander scheme of things. Next to Sonarpilot’s bass element here, the percussion is somewhat muted, giving off a chilling echo with every pulsating crash of beat that lasts well into the next verse. The tonal presence is prominent here, but without question, the synth is the primary source of melodic color in this single. Sonarpilot cultivates an immaculate relationship with the implied melody in the opening salvo of music that slowly matures into an all-out symphony before the song ceases to play, and while the arrangement tells a boldly vivid story in its own right, there’s just as much to be said about the hypnotic instrumental elements that make this track the star that it is at face value.
In the video for “Citadel,” dreamscapes are intercut with cinematic shots taken to a psychedelic extreme, and it lives up to the high standard of engagement set by its source material. While the visual components inarguably add texture to the song, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it changes the narrative of the material or minimizes the impact of the arrangement in the least (a frequent problem among videos of this persuasion). Sonarpilot didn’t just piece together a handful of hokey pictures for a backdrop and splice in the moodiness of the music from his latest hit here; he forms a compelling visual experience to complement the soundtrack that inspired it.
Stark, introspective, and full of an honest sense of exploration that has been absent from the bulk of new singles that 2023 has seen thus far, “Citadel” represents a new milestone of emotionality in ambient surrealism for the discography of Sonarpilot. Nothing is getting between us and Sonarpilot in this song; there are only brooding melodies and confessional grooves that are as accessible as they are personal and steeped in humility. This has the potential to be one of his biggest crossover singles so far, and if you ask me, it shows off a side of his personality that is potently relatable, to put it mildly. Sonarpilot is firing on all cylinders in “Citadel,” and as an indie fan, I’m very pleased with the results of his labor.