The Lothars

Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas

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Taken from two days of live recording sessions, Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas is a great way to get into the Lothars' brand of haunting, mesmerizing drone experimentation, at once warm and slightly forbidding. The participation of four theremin players would be a gimmick if it weren't for the fact that the performers not only play other instruments, but have carefully defined roles -- thus, Jon Bernhardt plays bass theremin, Dean Stiglitz ambient theremin, Jon Hindmarsh lead theremin, and so forth. Combined with more conventional rock instruments at points, the resulting improvisations often make for inventive, gripping results -- if theremins became familiar through use on '50s horror/sci fi films, many of these efforts are the true spookouts. "Metallic Sonata No. 1" readily sets the tone, with its slow-growing dark rhythm loop and the way the drones sound even more and more like calls from the forlorn damned somewhere in a deep pit. Two further similarly titled "sonatas" help make up the mysterious core of the record, committed as they are to some of the most shadowy musical approaches around, electronic layers coalescing into a jaw-dropping float. By no means is everything total chill, and if nothing is quite as friendly as the Jim Flora-inspired art of the front cover, Oscillate has its calmly beautiful moments as well. "The Marriage of Queen Lothera" may never soundtrack actual nuptials but achieves a Brian Eno/Harold Budd-like grace at times, while the two versions of "Gypsy Song," while short, introduce a nicely unexpected folk twist to things. There's also humor: "Banjolin" has a string instrument performance at its heart that sounds, well, exactly like what the name describes, while the following "Bleep-Bloop" seems to be the Lothars' take on techno, albeit in a rather abstract sense.

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