Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Music Review: Lotus Plaza-Spooky Action At A Distance

Lotus Plaza-Spooky Action At A Distance
Kranky
Grade: 8.65 (B)
Available At: emusic, Amazon MP3 & CD

Music Fan 1: "Hey, did you dig Deerhunter's 2010 release 'Halcyon Digest' like I did?"
Music Fan 2: "Well ya, there were eleven tightly wound songs with dreamy atmosphere and knock out songwriting. And horns!"
Music Fan 1: "Did you like that song 'Desire Lines' sung by the group's guitarist?"
Music Fan 2: "Definitely, may be my favorite song from the batch. Those guitars just built a mountain of sound as the song went on"
Music Fan 1: Well you probably are going to like this new release from Lotus Plaza. It's more of the same.

Lotus Plaza is a side project of Deerhunter's Lockett Pundt, the guitarist from this indie rock staple. "Spooky Action At A Distance" is the project's second release and like the fake conversation at the top of the post says, it harks on a lot of Deerhunter's latest material. Strong, hypnotic guitar lines, mechanical drum beats, and a whole lot of crisp precision goes into the songwriting and production. At times it reminds me of Real Estate's fantastic release "Days" from 2011. It has that albums effortless approach, but it lacks that album's warmth. Pundt concentrates more on his material in a more clinical way. Songs like "Strangers" and "Out Of Touch" have different charms to them. The spitfire start of "Strangers" literally slows down with its drum fills in the last quarter of the song concluding on a somber, meditative note. "Out Of Touch" even throws in some "Woahs" in the choruses to make it appear arena ready in tone. But nothing on "Spooky Action At A distance" is really intended to fill a big concert hall.
For me, the 4 of the 5 standouts are on the second half of the LP. "Monoliths" reminds me of the grandeur I heard the first time I listened to "Gideon" by My Morning Jacket. It may not be much in quality of structure (a verse and one long 2 minute chorus) but it's the one song that is screaming for your affection. Pundt continually repeats himself "And of these days, I'll come around" to  a point that you're singing with him on the first listen by about the eighth time he repeats it (I think he gives the line a 14 time run). "Jet Out Of The Tundra" plays along as a lost Cure "Seventeen Seconds" nephew  sounding more like a grounded jet than one in flight. But the piano and drive to it works big time right down to the dissonant ending. The most immediate successes are "Eveningness" and the closer "Black Buzz". "Eveningness" is almost power pop in feel, but contains just enough restraint to keep it from getting too sugary. And on "Black Buzz", Pundt wisely chooses to close with a slow acoustic number. Pundt shows some of his best lyrical work musing "Black Buzz come dance with you tonight, Once was becomes a never will." The song softly concludes a satisfying effort making you want to go take it for another test drive.

The drawbacks? Of course there are Deerhunter comparisons and one might ask, "Why not save a few of these numbers to go with Deerhunter's Bradford Cox's best offerings for a future Deerhunter release?" I also get the vibe that while I like Pundt's material, I may actually like it better mixed in with a few Cox led songs. One more thing I noticed which didn't totally bug me, but could have added more. Just a little more instrumentation. Think back to "Halcyon Digest" and standouts like "Helicopter" or "Coronado" or "Basement Scene" and the wonderful extra instruments brought in to heighten those songs. "Spooky Action At A Distance" comes of skeletal compared to those songs.

Overall, "Spooky Action At A Distance" is extremely solid listening. It may not be a top 10 at the end of the year, but it'll be vying for number 11 when December rolls around.

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