Word by: Justin Gillett | Images by: Nitai Vinitzky
Lotus :: 10.07.09 :: The Independent :: San Francisco, CA
As the jamtronica genre continues to grow and evolve, an emphasis has undoubtedly been placed on technology. It's now common for bands to employ laptops and unique futuristic instruments, like ones made by Monome, into their musical endeavors to create a sound that combines instrumentation with pre-programmed high-tech noises. Many fans of the genre either tend to be supportive of using computer gadgetry or entirely against it. Some argue that using computers while performing has detracted from the overall musicianship that's needed for a live band to succeed. Despite this, more and more bands tend to be relying on laptops and programmers.
Aware of the progression and reliance on technology, it was quite refreshing to witness Lotus - a band that seems to fully encapsulate the jamtronica genre - not open up a laptop once while performing. Yes, there were a few samples that the band played over. But there was clearly an absence of glitched-out noises and clichéd dub-step dabbles. Lacking a prevalent computerized backbone, the Philadelphia-based quintet was intent on creating something organic and communal. Lotus was able to commit to instrumental jamming and take their movements to apex after apex and dictate how songs should progress without being tied down to a non-human musical entity.
During the band's 2009 fall tour, eight dates were designated as "Pay What You Want." This meant concert goers could purchase tickets for as low as $1 or as high as $20. The novel concept was extremely enticing for recession stricken music lovers - but as a profitable endeavor for a band, it has yet to be seen if the experiment will be repeated. The group's San Francisco layover at The Independent sold out, although it is hard to gauge if attendees paid a fair price for a ticket.
Opening up the show was the producer and live drummer electro duo Break Science. With Adam Deitch on drums and Borahm Lee on laptop and keys, the two latched onto a surprisingly tropical and dance-y sound – heightened with the unique sounding piccolo snare Deitch played with. The varied work of Lee was quite impressive, especially when he would occasionally man a keyboard to bring a bit more of a live feel into the duo's sound. Knowing that Deitch has played with a wide swath of musical characters ranging from Lettuce to Justin Timberlake, it was a slight disappointment to find his beats slightly convoluted and not as pronounced as they could have been.
|Luke Miller - Lotus | 10.07 | San Francisco|
After Lotus came out and played their first song, "Intro to a Cell," it was clear that the band's music has evolved quickly yet they still seem slightly timid while onstage. The pedal boards set up in font of lead guitarist Mike Rempel, secondary-guitarist and keyboardist Luke Miller and bassist Jesse Miller were elaborate and constantly employed by all three musicians. Jesse Miller was using a wah pedal to add a more funk and experimental tone to his already heady bass technique. By playing with a pick near the neck of his bass, far from the bridge, Jesse Miller has latched onto a signature tone that's loose yet uncompromising and rarely dull.
Some of the space jams that the band fell into - notably on "Wax" and "It's All Clear To Me Now" - were intense and engulfing. As the band kept adding to their progressions they would often peak and fall into major chord bliss. Rempel's guitar playing tended to be slightly reserved and modest. When he did let loose though, Rempel demonstrated an understanding of his six-string that could have been highlighted more frequently in the band's mix. While soloing, Rempel often closed his eyes and got into an almost meditative zone as his fingers scurried over the neck of his guitar.
The drumming on behalf of Mike Greenfield was quintessential of a jam drummer. Greenfield never flirted with electro beats and his rhythmic counterpart, percussionist Chuck Morris, rarely seemed to step out of his shell and experiment with the possibilities inherent to his instruments. This lack of gumption, on behalf of Morris, seemed to establish a heightened chemistry and reliance between the Miller brothers and Greenfield. Oftentimes, the core of the band's sound was entirely tied to these three members.
|Lotus | 10.07 | San Francisco|
As the band moved through its show, there were a few times when samples were played. But the sounds only added to the Lotus' overall ethereal tone and the electronic noises were by no means glitchy or obtrusive. Instead of falling back on the samples, the band relied on one another to progress the sound. A few times Luke Miller and Rempel would harmonize their guitar playing and heighten the band's overall bond as performers. The intensive instrumental music more than made up for the near complete absence of vocals throughout the show. Not having any prevalent singer definitely made the band more narrowed in on its jams, as opposed to focusing on a verbal message that some bands feel necessary to communicate.
Lotus finished off its evening with the title track off Hammer Strike. The song saw Luke and Jesse Miller ditching their stringed instruments – opting to rely on the keyboards and sample processors set up in font of them. The song was carried out in classic Lotus fashion, with all members focusing their jam strengths towards a united sound that everyone fed off. Playing off their musical talents as live musicians – who actually play instruments – Lotus nailed the night's last song with stunning precision.
Lotus :: 10.07.09 :: The Independent :: San Francisco, CA
Set I: Intro to a Cell, Evergreenary, Nematode, Blacklight Sunflare, In an Outline, Wax, Behind Midwest Storefronts
Set II: Simian, Spiritualize, It's All Clear, Spiritualize, Blender, Golden Ghost, Sunrain, Flower Sermon, Sunrain
E: Hammer Strike
Lotus is on tour now; dates available here.
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