The Lothars

Some more shorter reviews we've received for our debut CD, Meet The Lothars.

Punktlich, First Quarter, 1999

So how does a quartet composed of three theremins and one guitar avoid complete and absolute pretension. The honest answer is that such a feat is impossible. That's alright, though. These guys are from Boston, so pretense has been in their drinking water for some time. The bottom line is that this is an unbelievably dense, lush album, filled with the kind of noisy soundscapes one might expect from Pell Mell or Two Foot Flame. Honestly, I've been sick of the overuse of the theremin, especially as a novelty instrument in recent years. Here, however, they are used in very much the same way that the Silver Apples used a series of oscillators to layer odd, intriguing sounds over thick drum beats. This is a little different, more in the vein of the Telegraph Melts' combination of guitar and cello. Some of the tracks here, such as the magnificent 'Dust Mah Space Broom' or 'Charo UK' enjoy the addition of a bass guitar, rounding out the sound. Still, the minimalist tendencies of the band are primary to the record, and best heard on songs like 'Cowboy's Lament', in which the core of the band is accompanied only by, as stated in the liner notes, 'tapped paper cups on a footstool'. Sure, that's pretension. But isn't that what we warned you about?

The Review (University of Delaware), February 16, 1999

Rating: PPP (3 stars)

Bringing the avant-garde back to an over-polished electronic music scene, The Lothars break all the rules and shed all pretentiousness.

Abandoning traditional instrumentation, this Massachusetts quartet features a single guitar and three theremins, an electronic instrument played by waving both hands in front of two antennas.

"Meet The Lothars" is a hybrid of rock 'n' roll and haunted house music, where the shimmering and sadistic theremin wails are kept leashed by the monotonous rhythm guitar. These sound catalysts create some interesting sonic textures, ranging from the mellow "Sad Song" to the maniacal "Beat Hive."

Along with a tongue-in-cheek reference to The Beatles and an obscure '60s psychedelic combo, "Lothar And The Hand People," "Meet The Lothars" livens up a musical cul-de-sac and puts the fun back into listening.
--- Andrew Grypa

Anodyne Magazine (unknown issue)

With one guitarist and three theremin players (thereminists?) the Lothars are not quite your typical four piece. This Boston group was lauched as a result of the documentary on Leon Theremin a couple years ago (which probably inspired hundreds, maybe thousands to take up that prehistoric electronic instrument and start the whole theremin pop movement). Sure, other bands (most notably the '60s psychedelic obscurity Lothar and the Hand People) have used the theremin, but merely as a special effect, not as the primary basis of their sound. The guitar (or, occasionally, bass) sets down chugging low-key rhythmic drones above which the theremins swoop and soar like the little homunculi that dance around on the Lothars' CD cover. Think of it as retro-future, but this instrumental music is amazing, whether it's the clip-clop spaghetti western Ennio Morricone tribute of "Cowboys Lament," the noisy avant rocker "Charo UK," or the droning Kranky-like textures of "Beat Hive." With some comic moments like "The Cat & The Mean Old Man, "as well as dirges like "Sad Song" and "The Coronation of King Lothar," the Lothars flex their diversity. Just as decades ago, Clara Rockmore led the way to popularize the theremin in classical music, the Lothars are leading the new revolution of theremin-driven instrumental rock.
--- Rolf Semprebon

Faster Than Sheep (unknown issue)

Question: How can three theremins and a guitar not sound like the soundtrack to the movie Tron? Drop into this album at any given moment and the air is alive with the whirring and wailing of theremin. I was talking with a friend recently who thought that the whole theremin gig was a joke. He insists the theremin is really just an empty box with dials and buttons and an antenna used to distract the audience while the thereminist (or is it thereminer?) makes strange spacey noises out of the side of their mouth, like a ventriloquist.

The theremin is indeed a strange instrument. If you've never seen one played (I suppose that's what you call it), it's easy to see why there'd be disbelievers. Basically, the instrument is played by waving one's hands at various distances and speeds in the general area over the theremin itself. The sound it makes is distinctive and, just as mentioned above, sounds suspiciously like someone making space-sounds out of their ... well, you get the idea. The instrument has found itself popular lately, showing up on recent releases from the Beastie Boys and Beck to Modest Mouse and ICU.

Combining several theremins and one guitar, The Lothars have certainly redefined the modern theremin era, and Meet the Lothars is living proof. Several songs get a little spacey ("Trem, Also" and "Trem, As Well") but the majority are far from sci-fi-phooey and even rock a bit ("The Cat & the Mean Old Man"). Meet the Lothars was not intended as some cheeky novelty album and it's a good thing, because the Lothars have mapped unseen theremin territory, and in so doing have given legitimate voice to a nation of theremin. Don't delay, theremin today? --- BD

ink19, March, 1999

The theremin is a musical contraption usually relegated for a retro touch or a fleeting lead. The electronic instrument's haunting and ululating tone, infinitely variable in pitch and nature, served as the soundtrack to many a spooky B-movie scene. The Lothars take the theremin to new extremes, incorporating three full-time theremin players and a guitarist (with the occasional guest instrument). Needless to say, this is pretty unique and definitely not for everyone. The band tends to be rhythmic and hypnotic, and they truly are masters of the notoriously difficult instrument, even coming up with some weird "animal" sounds on "The Cat and the Mean Old Man."
--- Kurt Channing

Spank Fanzine, Issue No. 26

The first person I ever witnessed use a theremin was Jon Spencer with the Blues Explosion on the Extra Width tour. A theremin is an electronic instrument invented in the 1920s by Leon Theremin that generates a single tone whose pitch and loudness are controlled by the proximity of the player's hands to a straight antenna and a loop, respectively, that protrude from it. [The New Harvard Dictionary of Music]. The Lothars are a four-piece from Somerville, MA, who play multiple theremins and back them up by guitar, bass or whatever else they happen to find. All that said, the Lothars create a listening experience that's obscure to say the least. The songs are instrumental; I imagine that vocals over this would only eclipse the action. While listening, I thought about marching elephants, underwater marine life and what I'll be feeling when the spaceship lands in my yard. I was amazed at how long I was able to stick with this unique sound.

The Bee's Knees, #10

A 3 theremin and one guitar band, you can almost get the picture without hearing the cd. If you like noise then this is for you. No vocals just a guitar and 3 very annoying theremins. one is enough to be honest, 3...
mike turner

New Sonic Architecture

Loop and extrapolate the backing electronics and sonic skullduggery of 50 Foot Hose's Cauldron ad infinitum and you have a fairly good estimation of The Lothars' agenda. This is total mindfuck music: an army of Theremins (well, at least two or more on any given track) droning and blurping in cacophonous synthesis, mutating like some destructo-virus whose visible symptom is the lure of the psychotropic. Packaged as a riff on the first Beatles album, one can only wonder what this band will achieve if they achieve a similar evolution in their music. A Theremin Sgt. Peppers?! There's guitar at work on most of this album but it plays a distant, vibrato-soaked third to the queasily delayed, heavily reverbed Th... well, you know. Sufficiently over the top. -GW

Crohinga Well, Issue #15

[Abunai!] keyboards player Kris Thompson and [Abunai!] guitarist Brendan Quinn teamed up with local radio presenter and theremin builder Jon Bernhardt and guitarist Ramona Herboldsheimer to form The Lothars, a band with a sound almost completely built up around theremin noises. "Meet The Lothars" offers 9 instrumental pieces (60') featuring Ramona plucking endless series of chords out of her rhythm guitar while 3 gentlemen of class and distinction do unspeakable things to as many theremins. Just try to imagine that sound! The Lothars create totally freaked-out soundscapes and yet offer much variety: the Ennio Morricone tribute "Cowboys Lament" sounds like a lost Silver Apples outtake "The Coronation of King Lothar" could be The Velvet Underground in 1966, mangling an old English folk traditional and "Charo UK" has all the charms of a Dalek invasion! Great album with hilarious psychedelic moments. Just play this one to a group of friends to separate the men from the boys!

Sticks & Stones, Sept. 1999

An album much more interesting in practice than in theory, and here's why: The four-person line up consists of three theremin players and one guitarist. Yep, that ultra-hip embellishment of choice for everyone from Jon Spencer to Brian Wilson is the dominant instrument here. Each of these "songs" has an eerie, movie music quality to it, and is fairly enchanting in spots. But over the course of a whole album, it becomes positively grating. The Lothars are like the ideas of drunken musician buddies come to life.

Scram, Number 9

...Three theremin and guitar combo riff on simple themes with predictably psychedelic results. The sonic equivalent of slipping in and out of sleep all night while heavy rain falls outside.
--- Kim Cooper