You're drinking your fourth delicious draft of domestic swill when darkness overtakes the Culture Room. A random girl's ass shakes against your leg excitedly. 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 onstage, and suddenly the club erupts in bass. A whirling orchestra of robotic lights on a massive hanging grid swings its multicolored beams throughout the space. The other four guys in the band dive into their instruments, and a lock-tight 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 it and a freshly pressed, tenth album, Lotus is better than ever. Its latest release, Build, on Colorado's SCI Fidelity Records, is a hypnotic journey through ten bold cuts sharper than Shinobi's sword. The album, recorded with live instruments direct to old-school analog tape, is masterfully blended with beat-freak-ready samples. The full orchestrations were mixed through a custom process, giving the entire album a warm, organic sonic quality.
"We didn't do a whole lot of computerized anything," says Miller. "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 synth, and heavy dubstep wobbles, all filtered through the funk and rock Lotus have always brought to the table.
"This album has a real vinyl-digging sort of sound," says Miller. "A sampling sort of thing, even though we do it all ourselves." Onstage, they re-create it live, and the double-time drum breaks could crack ankles with their rhythmic precision. 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 Langerados, Lotus has barely been through 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," says Miller. "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 the band's dedication to the new is available via blog.lotusvibes.com, where it releases pay-to-download sets from just about every show. Even as it tours in support of its studio albums, the band releases and monetizes a live one almost every time it plays. "It doesn't make much sense for bands who play the same thing every night, but since we're always changing, we offer these really high-quality multitrack mixes within a couple of days of almost every show," says Miller.
With a constant energetic build of peaks and valleys, climactic drops, and catchy hooks, Lotus is sure to cause dance-friendly riots at the club.
Lotus, with Moon Hooch. 8 p.m. Friday, February 22, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $18 plus fees. Call 954-564-1074, or visit cultureroom.net.