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“Whatever we may plan ahead, our playing always takes us the other way round,” says Lotto guitarist Łukasz Rychlicki of the group’s second album VV, and it easily sounds like some mystic claim about the nature of music itself. Like the human heart, the inverted psychedelia of VV wants what it wants; it flows in unexpected directions, lingers on a solitary groove for longer than expected (or warranted), and builds up to volcanic heats before blinking out completely.
Naturally, however, the Polish trio had at least one mission statement before lengthily improvising the rudimentary shapes for VV. By moving away from the conventional power trio guitar-bass-drum setup – opting instead for an upright bass to accompany the electric bass – Lotto may not have crafted a wholly different beast to 2016’s monolithic Elite Feline. Still, what sets VV apart from their previous effort is an expanded – and seemingly expanding – mood board.
That isn’t to say that VV isn’t full of Elite Feline’s slack jams. Opener Soil, Paperchase and Heel are noir accompaniments – driving forward the hardboiled detective trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare under the all-seeing eye of a secretive board, anticipating her every move. But the nooks and crannies of their sound world – the spaces between the grooves – are where Lotto’s very particular set of skills come into play. The taciturn drone of Hazze is muted like the dull thud of a house party heard mid-comedown from inside the bathroom. The 15-minute closer Ote fades away into the same immovable fog that started VV. What we’ve just experienced was an apparition in the night, a fever in deepest sleep. Near the end, there’s an audible click – a pressed pedal, a flicked switch – as if to turn out the last remaining vestige of light.
Rychlicki, again: “I wouldn’t like to add more context to [VV]. I believe that everyone can interpret the music anyway they want. We prefer to keep those things open.” It follows that VV’s black and white cover is blankly utilitarian, like the list of ingredients on a soup can. Still, there’s some accounting for all the powerful images that Lotto’s intricate, matte psychedelic rock conjures.