Lotus – ‘Strength of Weak Ties’

Strength of Weak Ties

© 2006; Harmonized

I wrote the beginning of the review a couple days back while commuting home. I find that if I can’t sum up how I feel about an album in about twenty minutes or so, it probably isn’t worth going forward. So there you have it, my quick thoughts on Lotus’ new album with an in-depth perspective at the end. Hope you likey.

Overall, I think the album is surprisingly varied and mixed and it seems to work for them. However, “live dance” music and vocals just do not mix in my opinion. I mean, it’s damn near impossible to pull it off effectively and I think there are few and far between that can pull it off from the very beginning, and just because they can doesn’t mean they should.

To change a model, though, as a band…can someone give me some insight, has Lotus always had some vocals in their tunes and whenever I listen to them do I just tune them out? The vocals on some tracks just jumped right out and smacked me in the face the first time I got through this, and it’s hard for me to say that the slap was positive. What did the five fingers say to the face?

Even with the dance track vocals, something I’ll admit quickly is that I’ve listened to this album multiple times, maybe five times total all the way through in the past five days. That’s a rather impressive number if you know me and you know anything about my short attention span. I think it speaks to the true character of the record and a true shift in the Lotus groove dimension.

“When H binds to O” sounds like an extremely funky Tortoise outtake. I love it. “Tip of the Tongue” is a strong opener to the album and it hardly points at the overall direction of the album. That’s almost their, “hey, just wanted to make sure you remembered that this is a Lotus album…” track. “Drunken Giraffe” gets my vote for the drumbeat alone, but add on that little guitar tickle over the top of the intro and I’m all for it.

I personally think this is a better direction to travel in as opposed to sticking with a formulaic four-on-the-floor vocoder-rich vox dance tune. I started to worry that some of the electrojambands didn’t vary themselves enough from thy brethren; hopefully Lotus is pointing to their own little niche to carve out. I already thought they had their own niche, but to each their own. If they truly don’t, this album is a good start.

Now we’re going to offer you a slightly different perspective…

Written by Brent Kado, the blogmaster at Flow Feel and all around music fan.

As we grow older we’re supposed to mature. That‘s the accepted philosophy. It’s no different with musicians. Even the most fun-loving party bands are expected to make better records and improved music as they transgress through their careers. Lotus, the groove-oriented Philly quintet, is a band that seemed to be doing just that.

From their humble roots as a experimental funk-jam band to their rise in the Live-tronica circles via mesmerizing live shows and solid studio work, the band seemed to be wading through the waters of indie music at a snowballing-grassroots pace. Now they have dropped their sophomore studio album, Strength of Weak Ties, the follow up last years Nomad, which was undoubtedly one of the years surprises both critically and commercially. The band was able to capture their live spirit on Nomad and present their talent for concise, well-crafted songs in the limiting confines of a record. Now a year later can they once again capture the fierce on-stage energy in a studio setting and yes, would the sound have evolved – or matured if you will?

Lotus wastes little time in beginning to answer this question with the dance-floor ready Tip of the Tongue. This cut has the ability to be one of the top underground hits of the year. (College DJs and Club Beat Chemists take note – this song could make you the envy of all your peers) Tip of the Tongue rolls like a Basement Jaxx House-blast and improves on the high-energy atmosphere that Nomad brought forth. Another track, Bubonic Tonic lives up to its name, full of highly infectious P-funk grooves, a really bob-n-weave sizzler, perfect for a brisk walk through the park or as a house party background jive. Apart from these two tracks Strength of Weak Ties moves past Nomad’s dynamic-ease, offering a side that the band has always displayed on stage. Lotus uses this latest work to present the experimental part of their personality. When H Binds To O and Cirrus both bring a wide-range of subtle and sly sounds to the introspective album. Songs like Kesey Seed and Drunken Giraffe offers dual sides of the Lotus persona dabbling in both hyper-friendly beats and novel noise.

Strength of Weak Ties also finds Lotus delving more into the rock aspects of music then revealed on Nomad. More guitar heavy, more cooly-abrasive instead of deeply-atmospheric, Lotus presents a wider range of styles on the album, an obvious departure from the electronic, prog-rock inspiration on Nomad. The influences on Strength of Weak Ties are hard to pin down because the album itself is very diverse and presents a web of sounds conjuring up some similarities to Aphex Twins or Tortoise along with a long list of foundational muses like The Orb, The Meters, and Phish.

Seems like every time Lotus sets out on new project, be it a studio album or their latest tour, the sound changes and grows slightly form the last time around. An evolution happens, yes it is a maturation. Strength of Weak Ties is just another step on the bands path to greener pastures. In the album you can feel the lessons learned of five years listening to each other, approaching a thousand shows, dedicated practice and building off the hurdles of previous albums. Strength of Weak Ties can be marked as the finest effort Lotus has done to date, and will arguably be a great success. But this is not likely the peak for the band. Accepted philosophy has merit- as we grow older we mature. Lotus is no exception.

Reprinted from Flow Feel with full author permission.

Full disclosure: Justin from rephlektor inkorporated sent me a copy of this disc for free. He asked me if I wanted it, and I said, “yes.”