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(SCI Fidelity; US: 13 Sep 2011; UK: import)


Lotus, the self-titled fourth release from the increasingly electronic four-piece, is a mellow dose of instrumental jams that never quite gets you off. On its best tracks, “Bush Pilot” and “Golden Ghost”, it blends synthesized sounds accented with chopped up MC appearances over diverging club rhythms, while still sounding mostly like a live band. However, on tracks like “Backlight Sunflare” and “Harps”, which are dominated by the bark of a synthesizer, the music seems too twinkly and artificial. At its most generic moments, Lotus sounds like a threesome with Ratatat and Bassnectar (“Dowrn”), which isn’t bad, but it doesn’t score points for originality. The album takes a nap halfway through, with the college radio snore-rock of “The Surf” and the spacey “In an Outline” and never really wakes back up.

Jambands earn their keep on the stage and it’s not uncommon for albums to be weak fuck-arounds in comparison to the live shows. Maybe it’s because a jam, by definition, is exploration, taking a musical idea to its frontiers. The tempo changes, the solos, the refrains, the missteps, the uncertainty, the triumph of bringing it down and back up—it’s something to witness. In the studio, bands rein it in to fit the confines of an album and the music typically looses power.  Lotus isn’t bad. It’s just boring. The group does little to break new ground or rise above the status quo of the genre. While the songs sound pleasing initially, they lack personality in the performances and daring in composition. Though the album has few obvious flaws, it doesn’t achieve much, either. It certainly isn’t engaging, and—even for mellow instrumental music—that is a fatal flaw.


Kevin Curtin performs, studies and writes about music. He holds degrees in journalism and music from Michigan State University. Kevin lives in Austin, TX and spends a lot of time volunteering as an adult literacy instructor and even more with his hands on a keyboard, telling stories in the most interesting and honest way he can.

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