Lotus | 09.24.08 | New York
Lotus :: 09.24.08 :: Mercury Lounge :: New York, NY
Characterized by a bounty of dueling guitars, experimentation with pace changeups and well-placed effects, Hammerstrike‘s versatile collection appealed to a number of emotions and spun a variety of sensations, from the pedestrian to the everyday, like cruising the open road to the highly celestial and cosmic simulation of galactic flight – all this range, and yet all still highly danceable. Returning to their proclivity towards vocals heard briefly on 2006’s The Strength of Weak Ties, the new album features an even greater lyrical presence, dispersed mainly by guitarist-keyboardist Luke Miller through the use of a vocoder. The new tool was spotlighted most prominently in what has already become a welcome segment in their rotation, “Bellwether,” which was strong on futuristic keyboards, stinging guitar riffs from Mike Rempel and, of course, just the right amount of cowbell. The distorted vocoder lines that repeat themselves throughout “Bellwether” – “Out with the old, in with the new/ Bring no regrets and start anew” – have a definitive, though somewhat ambiguous air about them. On the sarcastic level, they can be pointing out technology’s endless cycle of replacing the fairly modern with the most up-to-date, or they can literally be saying adaptation in our time is completely essential (hence the now-ubiquitous robotic voice device). Keeping an incredible balance between traditional routes of rock, funk and jazz and splicing it with electronica through the judicious usage of digitized beats, loops and samples, Lotus is composed of pioneers pursuing both paths, leaving such phrasings entirely open-ended.
The first track on the new disc, “Behind Midwest Storefronts,” driven passionately by Rempel’s dexterity on guitar, evoked a sense of unyielding pride and confidence, something of a patriotic anthem that ambitiously states that which we cherish most. Whatever it may be. “Modicum” was a bump-and-shout throwback, soulful and relatively straightforward, the unaltered vocals reminiscent of early funk, but with plenty of openings that will definitely be maneuvered more down the line. “Age of Inexperience,” on the other hand, which has also been making its rounds during the summer, has already taken on a refined character of its own. Rempel and Luke’s dual-action strings wrapped around Jesse’s bass like garish pieces of ribbon about a maypole, alternating at times and synchronizing at others, then eventually managing to take the lead in two divergent directions, only to reunite right back at the very start.
As if the first-time-ever debut wasn’t enough, a second set that was brief on quantity but appreciatively superfluous on substance followed. “Did Fatt,” with its reggae flavor and jungle-esque effects, connoted the movement of a primate making his way up a rainforest tree in efforts to reach the canopy, which, as all jungle folk know, is the true party zone. Once up there, things got a bit more out of control than the jungle floor, and measure-by-measure electricity was added to what had become a happening primal ecosystem. With spirits by that point at an extreme high, the segue into “Wax” fit the mold ideally. The oddball whimsy and rolling generator beats, touched further by the versatile percussion presentation and gritty organ work, did amazing wonders as it continuously transferred back and forth between its two main sections. Somehow Sonic the Hedgehog battling the loony Dr. Robotnik immediately came to mind.
The lack of encore, though moderately disappointing, was more than justified by the extraordinary introduction to Hammerstrike and a dominating second set. Always big on Lotus’ menu, “Flower Sermon” resonated proportionately by Morris’ mallets dancing on the xylophone and the peaking guitar licks that hinted at a possible “Umbilical Moonrise” or “Sunrain.” A robotic “Bellwether” tease could also be detected in its latter portions, perhaps as an allusion to the role these new songs will begin to serve as they mature, finding their place amongst the others with the exposure they deserve and will undoubtedly come to receive. After all, they’ve only just begun to sprout.
09.19.08 :: Mercury Lounge :: New York, NY
Set One: Behind Midwest Storefronts, Age of Inexperience, Hammerstrike, Bellwether, Modicum, Invincibility of Youth, One Last Hurrah, Alkaline, Turquoise, Disappear In A Blood-Red Sky
Set Two: Flower Sermon, Did Fatt > Wax, Jump Off
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