Lotus Plaza // Spooky Action At A Distance // April 2 // Kranky
Here, at Seal On Psychedelics, among other monuments, the biggest shrine of them all is my personal altar to Deerhunter. I might or might not be biased towards this then but fuck it, everything Bradford Cox and co. have done up to this day has been nothing short of magical. But hey, despite what you may have heard, Bradford and his Atlas Sound side project are not the only Deerhunter related outlets for their interesting vision of warped rock music. Lockett Pundt, you know, the other guy who sings on Agoraphobia and Desire Lines releases his own music under the Lotus Plaza moniker. His debut 2009 LP The Floodlight Collective was received with sighs at the time when his dreamy vibes went against Deerhunter evolution into a more approachable band. In 2012, when Deerhunter feels like Bradford’s band, Puntd’s new LP Spooky Action At A Distance feels less like some solo album for the hardcore following only and more like an essential addition to the canon.
Yeah yeah, in a way Spooky Action At A Distance falls into the nostalgic sepia coloured guitar pop bracket that is slowly but surely starting to get on my nerves. But Pundt understands that nostalgia can have its own value that transcends all the spring reverb. Instead of trying to write complex songs that would miss the point, Spooky Action At A Distance works as childhood memories experienced first hand as opposed to the Super 8mm quality videos that many bands are aiming for, nailing the aesthetic but forgetting to add the emotion. The album is really simplistic, it feels like it’s tapping into places that are supposed to be forgotten. That works as a plus as Lockett Pundt was always the one responsible for dreamier Deerhunter moments. On this album there is no Cox to bring him down and unlike Floodlight Collective, Spooky Action At A Distance features actual rock songs, the sort of stuff that makes you pump your fists in the air and move your feet. Nostalgia might be the centre of attention but that doesn’t mean that Pundt completely ignores the songwriting.
It’s easy to call Lotus Plaza as a side project for Pundt to realise his ideas that Cox seems to be reluctant to accept into the current form of Deerhunter. But while Cox’s Atlas Sound material sounds like an afterthought and bedroom demos, it’s Lotus Plaza that takes the trophy when it comes to Deerhunter’s members ventures outside the main band. The songs on Lotus Plaza’s sophomore album might feel old but they have more spark than any Atlas Sound album. The untitled opener is the perfect sum of Pundt’s sound. Few chords melting in and out of each other, creating dreamy mist. Working under the same aesthetic throughout the LP, Pundt manages to make every song sound memorable. It’s the middle of the album that truly showcases the songwriting ability that Lotus Plaza have attained since The Floodlight Collective. White Galactic One is a mighty rocker, more fierce than anything on the last Deerhunter album. Monoliths is the centrepiece and the highlight here. A track that does everything that Nothing Ever Happened and Desire Lines have done before it. Pundt manages to do something that very few nostalgic records succeed in achieving, managing to bring nostalgia through instruments, vocals and lyrics all at the same time. The simple shift from “One of these days I Hope I’ll come round” to “One of these days I’ll come around” is one of the most euphoric moments you’re likely to hear in any album this year. If simplicity indeed is genius, then Lotus Plaza have just graduated from the 2nd best into someone who can stand up tall next to one of the best frontmen music has to offer.
Looking at Bradford Cox it’s easy to just accept him as the brain of Deerhunter. Easy, but not fair as there is another talented songwriter that brought us songs some of the best Deerhunter songs. These few songs that Pundt penned for his main band is the sort of stuff that Spooky Action At A Distance deals in with relentless pace and quality. Yes, this is an album that is miles ahead anything that Cox has released, it’s a great stand alone album, but most of all, it feels like a document of success and a notification of what we all knew long time ago but were just afraid to say it out loud: Bradford Cox is not the only genius in Deerhunter.