Hammerstrike – Lotus
In 1982, when the members of Lotus were young or inexistent, Jason Pierce and Peter Kember formed Spaceman 3. They made music plump with loud, droning, minimalist guitars, slowly developing jams, and spooky spookiness. They paved the way for bands like Tortoise and added a mound of avant-garde street cred to music that otherwise could be dismissed as druggythough their release of early demos Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To adds some validity to such dismissals. In this vein, we have Hammerstrike, the third studio album by Lotus. There is a lot to catch your ear here, especially the drumming of Chuck Morris. Morris is highly danceable and technically impressive while still performing the function of a drummer: keep the beat and stay out of the way. But there is simply too much guitar on this album.
Maybe it’s just me and all the silly, uninformed ideas I learned when my mother began giving me piano lessons whilst I was a toddler, but my understanding is the chording instrument should vary its tone (see Hendrix, Jimi). And this is the flaw of Hammerstrike: the guitar dominates but does not change its tone. I suppose one could argue an unvarying tone is the essence of minimalism, but a listen to a seminal work like Terry Riley’s In C reveals this is not what is meant by minimalist. Besides, change is in the air.
Within the introduction of “Invincibility of Youth,” about halfway through the album, eight seconds of pleasant, simple acoustic guitar are given the light of day. This respite is soon interrupted by the big, loud, scary guitar monster, as it scratches its way to the forefront again. A couple tracks later, we have “Alkaline,” which I am convinced was included to raise my blood pressure as it successfully re-creates the sound of nails on a chalkboard, and I am a teacher who stills uses a chalkboard. “Torquoise,” the penultimate track, is a good song, and the non-lingual melody of the closer “Disappear in a Blood-Red Sky” does warm my heart, but it’s just too little too late.