The Lothars

From the Spring, 1999 issue of the Ptolemaic Terrascope.

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(CD on Wobbly Music:, 9 Charnwood Road, Somerville MA 02144 USA)

Hands raised immediately in a gesture of deprecation: Lothars are friends of ours. They were formed by Jon Bernhardt (who produced and maintains the Terrascope's presence on the Internet) and their album's been released in conjunction with Camera Obscura, which is run by our very own Tony Dale. Moreover, the first Terrastock festival provided the initial impetus for the band to get started. So are we likely to tell you if the sound they make is a convocation of unmusical tosh? Hardly. Luckily though the question doesn't arise, since 'Meet The Lothars' is actually far more listenable than you might imagine considering the "orchestra" consists basically of a group of novice performers waving their hands over their home-made electronic boxes. And therein lies the secret, I suspect: because Bernhardt, Kris Thompson and Brendan Quinn (also of Abunai!) are largely self taught Theremin-pilots, they've developed a particular empathy with the sound produced and indeed with each other along the way and because most of the members are also in more traditional rock bands (the fourth being guitarist and bassist Ramona Herboldsheimer, late of Orans) the results are far more musical than they might otherwise be expected to be. 'Cowboy's Lament', influenced it's said by Ennio Morricone, finds them not so much home on the range as hovering above it in a saucer made of sound kept up by the jet-stream of a whistling kettle - it's at once haunting and rhythmically simple, and it works to great effect. 'Beat Hive' likewise features mesmerising washes of howling modulation from far beyond the galactic hubcap, while the opening, 'Dust Mah Space Broom' features an almost hummable melody and chord structure no mean feat considering both are challenging to achieve on an instrument you don't even have to touch in order to play it. The stand-out number though is undoubtedly, 'The Coronation of King Lothar', a folk-song driven along by Quinn's violin which the Theremin ensemble extemporize over with almost insolent ease. Live, the effect encompassed by 'Trem, Also', which clings to the mind like a psychedelic limpet, is a fair measure of what to expect: check 'em out if you get the chance, and meanwhile don't pass by the opportunity to Meet the Lothars while the album's still hot. (Phil)