Album review: Lotus, Free Swim

Lotus was a big thing for me (and most jam band fans) for several years throughout the late 00's and early 10's. Jamtronica was becoming more and more ubiquitous in the head scene, with Philadelphia being it's untzy epicenter.  The City of Brotherly Love gave rise to several notable Jamtronica acts (namely the Disco Biscuits), and Lotus was one of the premier groups to come out of Philly's digital revolution.  However, after nearly a decade of fun, yet unimagined dance parties, Lotus slipped completely off my radar...that is until 2020, when they released their most inspired album in well over a decade with "Free Swim."

Make no mistakes, Free Swim is still a Lotus record.  It still has the same high energy beeps, boops and silky grooves that make folks return to their shows.  It opens with "Catacombs," and the usual sprightly electrofunk that Lotus has come to identify with in the past decade and change; and fans of the untz will take dancey delight that there is plenty of this on the album. However, there is a noticeable change in its second tune, "Turtlehead," which focuses equal emphasis on atmospherics as it does sound, resulting in one of the more mature Lotus tunes in their catalog.  Free Swim tends to follow this pattern, alternating between faster and slower tempo songs.  Even the quicker tempo songs, however, have an ethereal sound that allows for more cerebral listening.  The biggest departure from the Lotus aesthetic is "Sepia Rainbow;" a languid track (clearly influenced by Khruangbin) very representative of the album's of both bands will notice Khruangbin's stamp throughout the album.   Also, Free Swim earns some Cultureboof points for its own take on jazz fusion with "Snake Island."  The album concludes with "Land of the Lush," a beautiful and serene aggregate of the general theme of Free Swim.

At the end of the day, Lotus is an instrumental Jamtronica band who will most likely never write a studio album to the caliber of some of their contemporaries and the pioneers that paved the way for them.  But that doesn't mean they can't evolve.  Free Swim is much more than a rave soundtrack.  They have taken their brand of Philly untz and peppered in some pensive grooves that will make for some brow furrowing and chin scratching underneath the flatbrim.

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