Reviews > CDs
Livetronica kings Lotus’ early albums were filled with lovely, neon-liquid jams—fluid and bright. But with each progressive studio album, that flowing sound has congealed into something with structure, harder edges and sharper corners. Build, the band’s fifth studio album, sees that transformation all but complete. If old-school fan favorite Nomad presented a flowing river of exotic grooves, then Build is a jagged mountain made of ice.
The change isn’t bad, but it also isn’t hard to picture Build as a product of its environment. Aside from the ‘90s heyday of Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, arguably, there has never been a bigger time for electronic music. Glowstick magnets like Skrillex and Deadmau5 are the new mainstream; even within the jam world, producers like The Glitch Mob and Bassnectar are making crowds giddy.
Build, then, is closer to the glitchy, start-stop funk of Ratatat than the ambient, twirling guitar workouts of STS9. It’s music for a workout playlist, not for a late-night headphone haze. The record takes the shift that Lotus made with 2011’s self-titled album further to electro territory.
But if you can, forget about Lotus’ studio-recorded past. On its own merit, Build is a loud, wild party. Opener “Break Build Burn” fires out of the gate with synths spiraling to the sky and a punchy horn section courtesy of Rubblebucket. With the sprinkled-in piano line, it’s a dead ringer for a track that Pretty Lights could’ve dropped in 2009.
First single “Massif” builds on a solitary, churning guitar line with a heavy, chomping beat. “Aschon” actually includes that dubstep bass “womp”—musical crack for the EDM set. This alone may mean that Build proves to be kryptonite for old-school fans. But while the record’s production is impeccably tight and crisp, there simply isn’t enough variety here. Build remains largely within the realm of mid-tempo bangers. Even that womp doesn’t properly explode; the song around it is already turned to 11.
If you long for those swirling, spaced-out Lotus jams, then nab some tickets or fire up their excellent live record Escaping Sargasso Sea. That Lotus still exists. But keep your mind open; Build is a beat-heavy, colorful trip to the dance floor. Bring the glowsticks.
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