With their latest double EP releases, Feather on Wood and Oil on Glass, Lotus picks up where they left off with Hammerstrike, continuing to push their sound in directions that on one hand defies their most common label as an electronica band, and on the other hand, again proves that they are an experimental group with command and purpose.
The band hasn’t abandoned the sound that their fans have come to love; they have merely interwoven the new songs and the new sounds into what they have been doing on stage since their beginning. Rather than try to re-create the live experience in the studio, they have released a snapshot of where their creative force has led them.
The first track on Feather on Wood, “Marisol,” has the sort of musical power that expresses emotion – not in spite of the lack of lyrics, but even more acutely because it has no words – and the depth of the sound is so poignant that words would actually distract one from the real substance of the song. The opening retains the slow bass and percussion-driven sound with forlorn guitars and keyboards providing the melodic commentary that pulls one in. The build up into a much louder and distortion-driven rock sound demonstrates not only the new facet of “Marisol,” but also of the band – instead of a singular, stand-alone number that seemed almost lost on stage when Lotus debuted it a couple of years ago, “Marisol” may be the most beautiful and powerful example of what they are aiming for today.
“72 Hours Awake” begins as a cleaner sounding rock-song before building into the dirtier distortion ever-present in the newer Lotus numbers. Though lighter and a touch more positive and affirming than “Marisol”, it still retains some of the edge of the former. It finishes up with some searching guitar work that leads back into the distortion-laden chaos that quickly subsides to reveal some rather primal rhythm by drummer Steve Clemens and percussionist Chuck Morris. "Vancouver Island” features Mike Rempel’s soulful guitar in a well-balanced work of sonic-longing. As the tempo and urgency increases from the rest of the group, his playing seems to be asking, and then demanding, something from either himself or someone else.
Things change gears with “Turquoise (Prussian Blue Remix),” the remix provided by Skytree. Fans may remember his take on “When H Binds to O” on Copy/Paste/Repeat. This contribution oddly brings to mind Outkast, Broken Social Scene, jazz funerals, and military bugle calls. All in all, a very enjoyable and thought-provoking effort that completely reshaped the original version of the song.
The band delves back into the earlier themes with a vengeance with the closing track of the EP, “Cain & Abel.” While the bass, drums, & percussion are more than solid throughout the tune, the gorgeous interplay between Rempel and Luke Miller is what really shines through. The interwoven guitars duplicate and alternate with each other while swelling into climaxes that pour out emotion. The peaks reached in this number would make a listener unfamiliar with Lotus’s newer work hard to convince that this is the same band that put out Germination, their first release.
The second EP, Oil on Glass opens up with “Simian” and the deep, booming bass of Jesse. The percussion provides a dub-style rhythm accentuated by the reggae-oriented keyboards. Dueling, distorted guitars again provide some melody before a breakdown into the dub foundation of the song provides some space for superb, signature Rempel guitar riffs. "Simian" seems to bring perhaps the most danceability of any of these tracks, and it should make an exhilirating live track.
The sharp, scathing “Scrapple” comes blistering out next with a pounding cadence and another commanding bass line. The mellow keyboards seem almost a ruse when the crunchy and screeching guitars roar into the mix, bringing a full-on assault of simultaneous sonic bliss and longing. On this one, the whole band stars equally.
A very unique “Grayrigg” follows and has the feel of an older Lotus song but with almost classic rock guitar riffs that still bring the newly familiar distortion drenched effects. It is a fun tune with a quite enjoyable and workable combination of the band’s different sounds with the element of older rock thrown in to the mix.
Again, the “Hammerstrike (Kypski Remix)” and the “Alkaline (Remix featuring Othello)” inevitably recall Copy/Paste/Repeat; the former has more of a dance party vibe to it than the other remixes, while the latter brings an obvious hip-hop element. However, Othello contributes some nice lyrical play that seems slightly out of place.
The final offering on Oil on Glass, “Monochrome,” may actually best capture what the latest songs sound like live – popping bass, driving rhythms, playful keyboards, and screaming, wailing guitars. It is as though Lotus painted a complete picture where all the members can both forge a communal sound and also stand out individually: sliding back and forth between genres and in the process creating one all their own.
The two EPs are both a good listen on their own and provide another piece to the moving Lotus picture puzzle. If you’ve been a fan of the band, go pick them up, and if you’re newer to these guys or have not had the opportunity yet to give them a listen, this is an excellent place to start.