Lotus – ‘Monks’ Review

As a band, Lotus is known for their ever-eclectic sound, their willingness to push the envelope, and their explosively energetic live sets. Around the festival scene, everyone knows that Lotus sets are not to be missed. Their signature blend of jam and electronica sets them ahead the pack in a burgeoning genre where so few have been able to shine. Lotus, contrary to the norm, not only shines, but shines bright. Live sets aside, their studio releases continually garner the highest degree of critical acclaim from critics and listeners both and new and old, and when asked by a new-ear what kinds of music could be classified as jamtronica, Lotus has perennially served as the example that I refer to.

Their last album, Build, added to their already impressive catalogue of tracks, but while Build was a fantastic release as it exists today, it wasn’t any new direction for the band. Lotus’ new album, Monks—only just released September 10th—capitalizes on the band’s continuously impressive ability to evolve their sound in that it’s not just another Lotus album (as if there were such a thing), but a compilation of hip-hop/jamtronica collaborations inspired by the touring lifestyle that the band leads, the collaborative nature of the current scene, and Lotus’ uncanny ability to forge forward into untapped frontiers in music. While I’ve been able to compare past Lotus albums loosely to other bands of the genre such as Conspirator and similar projects, it’s quite rare to see hip-hop so seamlessly juxtaposed with instrumental or electronic dance style music. Lotus, being a powerhouse of the juxtaposition of these sounds and a force within the scene in and of itself, achieve a level of success in this collaborative effort that I’ve not seen the likes of outside of a few rather unknown artists. The time’s been more than ripe for hip-hop laden instrumental and EDM music to make its advent on the scene since the relatively underhyped Othello and the Hypnotics and Heralds of Change put out the products of their respective projects, and Galactic’s well-known hipstrumental collaborations have left fans eager to hear more. Still, this new sound has remained yet untapped.

With the release of Monks, Lotus proudly heralds this new collaborative style by joining forces with such virtuous wordsmiths as Mr. Lif, Gift of Gab, and Lyrics Born (there are others, but these are the most notable to me). The album exudes an aura of having been created out of holistic and natural circumstances, rather than having been contrived or otherwise ‘squeezed out’ from the band’s artistic reserves. The result of the album, having stemmed originally from work with Mr. Lif, is a heartfelt and novel sound that I hope to hear incorporated, in one way or another, into future Lotus sets. The album includes short excerpts that document the life of a monk as he moves through his learnings, and according to the band, was inspired by their touring life, which sometimes mimics the monastic travelings of monks of old: in this regard, Lotus cites a theme drawing upon sacrifice in the name of devotion to one’s craft. Touring artists have to make certain sacrifices in order to keep doing what they do, and a band like Lotus, especially, is certainly no exception. When it comes to Lotus, I for one am ecstatic that the band is willing to make such sacrifices. While so many bands are pushing the same old sound, failing to evolve, grow, or otherwise impress, Lotus trailblazes ahead on its own path: Monks is as strong a release as any I’ve heard in 2013, and reaffirms to us that Lotus is not just a band, but a musical force to be reckoned with. Monks is a powerful testament to conscious hip-hop and jamtronica alike—a release not soon to be forgotten—and one that anybody would be lucky to own a crisp, vinyl copy of for their own hedonistic enjoyment.

Monks is available for ‘pay what you want’ download on the band’s Bandcamp, and while the entire album is definitely worth listening to, my picks are “Cannon in the Heavens,” “Deep Inside the Mothership,” and “Different Dream.” There are other noteworthy picks off of the album, but I’ll leave those for you to discover for yourselves, as you inevitably will.

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