With the positive reception his main band continually receives and an upcoming wedding this year, it comes as no surprise that Deerhunter guitarist and sometimes frontman Lockett Pundt found the ambition and voice to craft a dream-rock experience as rich and rewarding as Spooky Action at a Distance, his second effort as Lotus Plaza.
His solo moniker’s debut, The Floodlight Collective, featured nostalgic sentiments obscured beneath hazy tones and grooves, but Pundt’s own Deerhunter tunes such as “Neither of Us, Uncertainly” have always acted as stoic counterbalance to the more theatrical punk sensibilities of bandmate and friend Bradford Cox. On Spooky Action at a Distance, a title arising from his love of astrophysics, Pundt’s exquisite entanglements of vivid pop, lucid electronics, and straight-up rock and roll demand to be heard.
Singing, “Walls closing all around,” on the frantic “Strangers”, Pundt recalls the urgency of his own “Desire Lines”, albeit with lyrics akin to those he sang on Microcastle’s “Agoraphobia” (clearly, a man fearful of losing connection). The acoustic, minor-to-major strumming in “Dusty Rhodes”, on the other hand, may be the most romantic moment of Pundt’s musical career so far and one of the sweetest in the Deerhunter-related catalog. His soaring (well, sort of) vocals on “Monoliths” and “Eveningness” are amplified by triumphant snare hits and playground guitar loops that will undoubtedly sound familiar to fans of Deerhunter’s loop-heavy live “Helicopter” medley.
Whereas his voice acted as another instrument on Floodlight, oozing through songs like molten lava, here Pundt’s low-range drawl becomes a driving characteristic, both quotable and hummable. Some who prefer Deerhunter’s more ambient work might cry out, but both Pundt’s and Cox’s recent work feature songwriters truly awakening their musical personas. Spooky Action almost works as a concept album about escaping and finding yourself, but all of Pundt’s creations play as soundtracks to personal discovery and tempered meditation.
With imagery of beaches, airliners, and cliffs, Pundt takes his travels, both in reality and dreams, and mines yearning emotions out of them. “Jet Out of the Tundra”, the crowning moment here, unfolds much like the droning “Antoine” on Floodlight, inhabited with Echo & the Bunnymen bass lines, tender major-7th chords that enter the stratosphere, and cutting lyrics about an uncertain return. The layers of feedback ripping through the clouds as the plane lands towards the end are simply magical. “Black Buzz”, however, is starkly bare, as Pundt fancies himself a cowboy storyteller, with a tale of a person lost in thought and isolation.
Bookended by washed-out pieces recalling Basinski’s Disintegration Loops but showcasing his most straightforward songwriting yet, Spooky Action at a Distance solidifies for us what Pundt has always been: a vital element of Deerhunter and an understated conjurer of rock reveries.
Essential Tracks: “Dusty Rhodes”, “Eveningness”, and “Strangers”