Remember when Lotus reinvigorated the electro-jam scene back in the early 2000’s? A hardcore contingent of fans certainly do and they have a lot to celebrate as the evolution of the band seems to have come full circle with the release of Monks, Lotus’ sixth full-length studio album and first hip-hop offering from the five-piece jam favorites. This is the second studio release by Lotus in 2013, following the arrival of Build back in February. The release of Monks comes in the backstretch of a lengthy summer tour that took the group across the United States showcasing their live performance skills for massive festival crowds.
Monks features Lotus’ previous studio work and remixes it with an organic hip-hop vibe featuring guest appearances from Lyrics Born, (one half of the legendary Latyrx crew) Gift of Gab, Mr Lif, Ras Arcane and Ozay Moore among others. The fact that Lotus was able to recruit such a diverse and talented group of artists speaks volumes about the band’s reach and impact in the music world over the last decade. There are also several new short vignettes sprinkled throughout the album that help to piece the album together and make it flow smoothly from start to finish. The first thing I noticed about Monks is the high level of production and limited or nonexistent delay from track to track. This is no doubt a testament to the longstanding talent in the group and near constant idea conceptualization of bandleaders and twin brothers Jesse and Luke Miller.
The album is framed on the front and back end by the spacey rock jams of “Monks (Young)” and “Monk (Old).” The live drumming from Mike Greenfield is incredible on these two pieces and the spoken words set a wicked psychedelic tone at the beginning and end of the album. “Another World” is a soulful and dub heavy track with near perfect wordplay provided by Gift of Gab while “Atlas Slugged” experiments creatively with wild guitar laced noise. “Pitched to the Fire” is another highlight and winds itself around Mike Rempel’s eerie guitar chords before descending into more poetic language. Instrumental songs like “Great Molasses Flood” and “Bow Out” represent snippets of the limitless potential of the group especially when it comes to conducting science experiments with sound. Although the whole album floats by pretty quickly, it will strike a chord and attract an even worldlier hoard of fans.
Hardcore Lotus-heads may lament the further departure from the groovy electronica of the group circa 2007 but Monks represents Lotus at the top of their game and unafraid to evolve and experiment with their sound. The real test will be taking these songs into the live arena, picking the correct spots within the set and mixing it with additional, older electronic and rock heavy offerings. After the scintillating ’70s vibe of Build, Monks is a refreshing change for an act that refuses to be roped into one musical category.