Earlier this year, we reviewed separate releases by Sun Hammer + Radere on the Futuresequence label. The two are friends, and this effort is not only a musical collaboration, but an expansion of that friendship. Jay Bodley (Sun Hammer) changed states twice during the production of the album, while Carl Ritger (Radere) went through a significant breakup and experienced an economic downturn. Lotophagen serves as a reflection of instability, both physical and emotional ~ a sullen shadow, yearning for the light. The album includes a sample of a protest recorded at a Democratic campaign event, and was released just prior to the Republican National Convention, which was itself disrupted by a hurricane. Nothing is stable in Lotophagen‘s world.
At its heart, Lotophagen is a drone album, but the real action takes place behind the scenes, where active electronics chortle and field recordings rest. The solid foreground hides a swirling backdrop, like a stolid expression that masks inner turmoil. In the words of The Who, no one knows what it’s like to be the sad man behind blue eyes. But we do; the irony of that song is that we all feel uniquely isolated, despite sharing a universal sorrow. The creative process is a levee against that sorrow. The lapping water that closes the first track (and recurs throughout the album) may symbolize the danger lurking nearby. Together, two are stronger than one, and the collaboration is a statement that friends can rally together against their demons.
In The Odyssey, the lotophagen‘s “senses are heightened” by the lotus fruit. Lotophagen (the album) does induce a narcotic effect, a blurred vision made distinct only in corners and beneath sheets. The combination of processed drone and manipulated sample is soothing in parts, but confrontational in others, especially when the grains grow swiftly in the center of the album, annihilating every other sound in their wake. It’s ironic then to note that the next viable sound is that of birdsong, typically symbolizing flight, spring and renewal; despite the dark notes that continue to abound, the hardest part of the crisis seems to be over. Then a creek, crickets, footsteps, a stride into the great beyond.
In the fourth track, a percussive rhythm develops: the album’s first sign of sonic stability. The field recordings grow louder in the background, symbolizing a reengagement with the natural world – the part that cares little for the affairs of humanity, but continues to plug on, sunup to sunset, reminding those who care to notice that some things are reliable, a bulwark against inner meanderings. By the end of the final track, a semblance of order has been restored. An 8mm camera unspools, distorted dialogue intruding on the reverie but reminding the listener that thoughts are not always clear and words do not always come out the way they are intended. The framework we impose upon them is the one we have to live with, so the greater the clarity of thought and speech, the healthier the life, despite the mutability of outer circumstances. (Richard Allen)