Music

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
Amazon
iTunes

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?

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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