The Lothars

The following pair of reviews appeared in issue number 6 of The Sound Projector, August, 1999.

The Lothars

Meet The Lothars

Australia, Camera Obscura Records CAM018CD
USA, Wobbly Music TOTTER001 (1998)

Regular pop-music instrumentals played on Theremins. What a gimmick, eh? The trendy buzz surrounding the Theremin just now threatens to drown out the genuine buzz of the music it produces by virtue of valves and radio science. That said this is quite an entertaining record, although doesn't quite deliver on the fun promised by the sleeve art (suggesting a barrelful of monkeys, quite literally).

A 1970s issue of Cracked magazine featured a memorable take on the predictable format of the rags-to-riches rock movie. The stars of this comic strip were a young group called The Guitars. All four members played the drums. The manager suggested a gimmick was needed in order to further their career, so they tied shoes to their head. I no longer have the magazine, but the panel depicting the triumphant stage debut of The Guitars - four blokes with shoes tied to their heads sitting behind four drum kits - is one that I'll take to the grave.

On paper, the Lothars' appeal is similar - the potential absurdity of a group of four theremin players, except they've cheated and one is actually a guitarist. And this is in spite of my vague distrust of theremin obsessives, not so much because of the disproportionate reverence held for what is an extraordinarily limited instrument, but more that praise for the theremin usually leads onto Divine, Russ Meyer, Hello Kitty and the other icons of modern beatnik culture. In practice, although unlikely to change many people's lives, The Lothars are still quite listenable. I'm glad that those concerned weren't so purist as to exclude the guitar, for it serves to anchor the music to a personal frame of reference allowing one to focus more clearly on the hot theremin action. Without a guitar this could have been a disaster. I gather from the barely approximated melodies and solos that the theremin is a primitive and uncooperative beast. Perhaps it is the instrument's crude simplicity that has prompted the group to work so hard at getting it right. Whether this is the case, or whether they just casually banged out these tracks one Sunday evening after the pub, is difficult to tell, but the end result draws you into its own world after only a couple of plays, overcoming the initial shock of what at first sounds like a bit too much of a novelty item to be granted house room. A weird but somehow loveable album. I bet in the 1970s when Tangerine Dream were doing all those albums with a million giant synthesisers on each track, they never dreamt that the future was going to sound like this!