My ex-wife introduced me to Sonia Dada well before they caught their small measure of fame. She never really liked anything they did after their first album, but I stayed faithful to their distinct mix of gospel, pop, soul, and R&B. It's a heady mix from the groups wildly talented vocalists and slick musicians.
Much will be made of Test Pattern's bows to world music. Honestly, though, the sitar and Bollywood vocals really just act as extra touches on the same recipe that Sonia Dada has been cooking up for more than a decade. So if you liked their earlier albums, you're bound to like this one.
For me, Test Pattern is probably my favorite of their albums. Although "Screaming John" from A Day at the Beach remains my favorite of their songs, Test Pattern is a far more complete disk. The songs are almost all exceptional, the production is perfect, and it has managed to play regularly on my computer at work while my coworkers jam along.
Especially good are the upbeat "Temple" with its rumbly lyrics and invitation to dance (not necessarily conducive to good cubicle relations), the sweet vocals of "Rag Doll," the gently sad "Gordon," and the grand "Dark Visions."
While it might seem a bit out of my normal listening patterns, Sonia Dada remains an addictive band to me. Test Pattern is only made better by the spaciousness of their sound; it's almost as if they were listening to old Eno-Lanois collaborations while they engineered this one. Their sonic landscape has become more wide-reaching (especially on the instrumental "Sundogs" which almost sounds as if it could have fit on Eno's Apollo soundtrack) without sacrificing their core sound.
Easily on of my favorite releases of the year.