By Jacob Katel
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You're drinking a fourth delicious draft of domestic swill when darkness overtakes the Culture Room. A random girl's backside rubs against your leg. Someone hoots, someone hollers, someone lights a joint. With a flick of his wrist, bass player Jesse Miller triggers a sample on one of many electronic gadgets. And suddenly the club erupts in bass. A whirling universe of stage lights blast bright, multicolored beams throughout the shadowy space. The four other guys in the band dive into their instruments, and a monumental groove takes over.
This is Lotus, the greatest instrumental electronic dance and rock band on the touring circuit.
With 14 years of live shows behind them and a freshly pressed tenth album on the shelves, Lotus is better than ever. The group's latest release, Build, on Colorado's SCI Fidelity Records, is a hypnotic journey through ten cuts sharper than a shinobi's sword. The album, recorded with live instruments to old-school analog tape, is masterfully blended with beat-freaking samples. The full orchestrations were mixed through a custom process, giving the entire album a warm, organic sonic quality.
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"We didn't do a whole lot of computerized anything," bassist Miller says. "We like the sound of recording to tape. A lot of modern music has a computerized, digital sound that's devoid of life and doesn't feel as warm or deep as something you can produce going down the line with an analog pop.
"I think the album has a feel similar to the live show, with lots of energy. There's lots of excitement, and it makes people want to move."
Build offers full-on body rocking hip-hop, four-to-the-floor house, reggae dub, Latin beats, new-age synths, and heavy dubstep wobbles, all filtered through the funk and rock that Lotus has always brought to the table.
"This album has a real vinyl-digging sort of sound — a sampling sort of thing, even though we do it all ourselves," the bassist says. Onstage, the group re-creates it all live, and the double-time drum breaks' rhythmic precision could crack ankles. The band also improvises constantly. "Over the course of a tour, we play about 80 or 90 different songs."
But other than a Jam Cruise and a couple of Langerado Music Festivals, Lotus has barely gigged South Florida. "When we play a new place where people aren't familiar with the band, sometimes it takes a minute to grasp what we're doing. It's usually just a couple of songs into the set and then everybody's rockin'.
"It's always great to see that transformation. It can be weird, but we like exposing our music to as many crowds as possible. We like being the dance band at the rock show, or the rock band at the dance club."
Proof of Lotus's dedication to the new is available via blog.lotusvibes.com, where the group releases pay-to-download sets from just about every show. Even as Miller and crew tour in support of their studio albums, they release and monetize a live one on a nearly daily basis. "It doesn't make much sense for bands who play the same thing every night," he says, "but since we're always changing, we offer these really high-quality multitrack mixes within a couple days of almost every show."
And with the constant peak-and-valley build of climactic drops and catchy hooks, Lotus is sure to cause dance-friendly riots at the club.