Lotus - "The Totuus"
(Lotus Music 1998, CD0001)
From Aural Innovations #6 (April 1999)
Though I wasn't exactly blown away by Lotus' entry on the Metazoon compilation (review in issue #5), listening to this full length CD of their work reveals an interesting progressive rock band with strong jazz roots and a spacey edge. The packaging on this CD is absolutely gorgeous. In fact, without hearing the music I would have guessed this to be a totally spaced out psych trip. But the music is instrumentally complex with lots of turn on a dime mood and pace changes. The music jams along and all the instruments are very distinct from one another but work cooperatively, each seemingly off in it's own little world yet combining to produce a complex yet cohesive whole.
Some of the highlights include "Aamutusmaan" which comes off like a cosmic piano concerto. The piano plays a rapid classical bit with the bass holding the backbone. The music is very busy and quirky with touches of space electronics. The vocal style here, and throughout the disc, is a bit dissonant, but very soulful. It's hard to describe but it works very well. The singer's role strikes me as being equally complex as the instrumentation and contributes much to establishing a trademark Lotus sound. "Save Us", one of the shorter tracks, returns to the classical mold, but again has that quirky feel. And so much is happening... so many different little soundbits popping up that the listener has to be alert to keep up.
"Spread The Shanti" and "Macrocosmonaut" are among my favorites. Musically similar to the other tracks these have a strong jazz feel, yet also stray into more ambient cosmic territory than the others. Astral synth sounds combine with a jazzy acoustic guitar and bopping rhythm section. The music gets quite intense at times, particularly on Macrocosmonaut which goes into an extended jam that gets quite psychedelically freaky while maintaining the clear jazz sound. This is the style that establishes Lotus' identity and is gives their music its strength. "Maani Maisemaa Raunaa" even gets into a rockin' Latin salsa bit. Very enjoyable.
"Mesqualito" is one of the last songs on the disc and the one I didn't altogether care for on the Metazoon compilation. Now that I've been grooving along with their music I gave this an extra hard listen to see if my opinion had changed. While it definitely fits in with the bands overall sound it doesn't excite me quite as much as the other tracks. A twelve minute track, it meanders around for too long until the intensity kicks in around the seven minute mark.
Overall, Lotus is a band that has established a recognizable sound and should appeal to progressive rock fans and spacerockers who like a bit of cosmic jazz. Gong fans would definitely dig this.
Contact Lotus c/o Ville Juvonen; Franzeninkatu 3 A 2; 00500 Helsinki; Finland.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz