Lotus Plaza: Spooky Action at a Distance

Though Spooky Action does find guitarist-vocalist Lockett Pundt carrying over some of his more song-like sensibilities from Deerhunter, he's still far more committed to reverb than hooks.

Lotus Plaza

Spooky Action at a Distance

Label: Kranky
US Release Date: 2012-04-02
UK Release Date: 2012-04-02

Carrying on in the tradition of famous shoegaze sound sculptors before him, guitarist-vocalist Lockett Pundt is pretty, pretty fond of reverb. Both on his solo work (recording under the moniker Lotus Plaza) and with his more famous main gig (the highly acclaimed indie-rock quartet Deerhunter), Pundt treats that ethereal sonic mist as an equally prominent instrument alongside his shimmering, arpeggiated six-strings and droning vocal lines. In fact, his first Lotus Plaza album, 2009's The Floodlight Collective, was nearly more reverb than actual song—his repetitive, circular melodies disappearing in an emotionally flat fog. Perhaps he intentionally saves his finest, most immediately striking songs for Deerhunter; perhaps working with co-writer Bradford Cox simply gets his creative juices flowing. But for whatever reason, his contributions to Deerhunter's wholly wonderful last two albums (2008's Microcastle and 2010's Halcyon Digest) are miles ahead of what he accomplished on his own—tracks like "Agoraphobia" and "Desire Lines" are equal parts psych-pop finesse and sublime guitar hypnosis: a synthesis he hasn't managed to harness (or bothered to even explore) on his own.

With Spooky Action at a Distance, his sophomore effort as Lotus Plaza, Pundt seems, for a moment, to pick up directly where he left off on Halcyon Digest, blazing out of the gate (after an opening wash of synth ambience) with "Strangers", a dreamy space-pop workout built on tangled, interlocking webs of electric guitar. Pundt still sings like a shy teenager on the wrong side of an unexpected hangover—his brittle, barely-there tenor hovering sheepishly above the glowing din. He may not be indie-rock's most natural frontman (Cox, his bandmate, is an infinitely more fascinating singer), but when the melodies are sharp—as they are on this track—his slightly anonymous voice lends the songs an air of subtle mystery.

Though Spooky Action does find Pundt carrying over some of his more song-like sensibilities from Deerhunter, he's still far more committed to reverb than hooks. At times, the wash of sound is majestic: The white-hot "White Galactic One" finds Pundt furiously bending his guitar strings into oblivion over a Velvet Underground-like motorik pulse. But when the intensity dies down, the results can be shapeless: The awkwardly out-of-tune "Dusty Rhodes" sounds like an atmospheric sketch in search of a chord progression, and the otherwise splendid "Jet out of the Tundra" is hard to make out behind its vacant wall of sound.

It's hard not to wish Pundt would open up the production values on occasion. The most immediately satisfying songs here are ones that jolt more than soothe. Particularly effective is "Eveningness", which cuts out the sonic clutter, giving his voice space to breathe over a cascading guitar loop and punchy chorus percussion. As a whole, Spooky Action feels like a mostly great demo: In many ways, we've heard all these songs before, in slightly tighter fashion, on the last two Deerhunter albums. Pundt may be sticking too close to his comfort zone, but there's enough magic here to hold him over until the next Deerhunter album. In the meantime, what's the status on that, anyway?






Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.