The Lothars

From the Settembre 2000 issue of Rockerilla, a magazine from Italy. This English translation, from the original Italian, was provided by the writer Enrico Ramunni.

THE LOTHARS (USA)

"Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas"
Wobbly Music

The use of theremin in psychedelic music is not so tremendously rare, yet a quintet coupling no less than four of these funny objects of musical modernary to one harmonic instrument is really unprecedented. The Lothars are all of this and more: born out of Jon Bernhardt's mind, materialised with the help of imaginative fellow-mates like the Abunai! (Kris Thompson is still part of the group, but also Brendan Quinn was in the first line-up), The Lothars drew inspiration from a documentary on the life of Leon Theremin, who invented the instrument consisting of an electromagnetic generator and two antennas to give Lenin's Soviet Union a suitable tool to create the music of the future. The artefact, however, turned out to be so difficult to control (it is very sensible to any environmental variation, as it relies on the electromagnetic induction generated by the performer body's motion around the antennas...) that it was soon confined to two opposed contests: academic (and highly elitarian) electronic music, or sound effects for sci-fi movies. Conversely, the Massachusetts based quintet has a decidedly "rock" approach to the perverted device, albeit with the dainty na´vetÚ documented in the mocking Beatlish debut of "Meet The Lothars", released on Camera Obscura (but for the occasion, the theremins were only three...). The follow-up to that enticing and a little weird opus is the much riper "Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas", which takes advantage of a more fruitful interaction of Ramona Herboldsheimer's guitar or violin with the background electromagnetic perturbation, and even more of the inevitable increase in the technical skills of the four Master Oscillators (alongside Bernhardt and Thompson, Jon Hindmarsh and Dean Stiglitz are part of the game). The result is that the bulk of experimental work rests on more developed compositional ideas, and that the expressive variety results much enhanced. The first two Metallic Sonatas are scores of elaborate abstraction, staged on vast non-Euclidean spaces, somehow near to Windy & Carl's frescos, while the third is more concise, nocturnal and mysterious, very fascinating. Aside form the extended ambient-noise collage of "The Feudal Resistance", probably the less intentional episode of the record, the rest of the album is based on short and trenchant ideas, from the marvellous atmospheric enchantment of "The Marriage Of Queen Lothera" to the cadenced dark-punk of "The Trot", trying an easier approach with the graceful rhythms of "Banjolin" and slipping in psychedelic motion on the endless glissando of "Hooray For Dane". A real must for the aficionados of every latitude's improvised music, but an inviting proposal also for those accustomed to more reassuring explorations: a piquant affair through the irrational geometries of theremin is a sure remedy to the bore of habit...
(Wobbly Music, 9 Charnwood Road, Somerville, MA 02144, USA)

ENRICO RAMUNNI