Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lotus Plaza: Spooky Action at a Distance (2012)


I've spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out why I'm not really responding to this. Lotus Plaza is the solo project of Lockett Pundt from Deerhunter; I loved that band's Halcyon Digest and for me its highlight was the glorious "Desire Lines," possessive of a wonderfully propulsive extended jam-fade and a memorably fractured, insistent chorus. Pundt wrote and sang that cut, and this is in some respects an entire album of songs like it. His writing hasn't faltered, the hooks and licks are oddball, sweetened, detailed, and go down easy.

What's the problem then? Given that cuts like "Strangers," the Kevin Shields-like "White Galactic One," and "Monoliths" are as well-written and rousing as anything Pundt's done for Deerhunter (not for him the subtle pleasures of Bradford Cox's side project Atlas Sound; these songs mean to soar) I have to believe it comes down to production. The songs sound like they've been recorded from too far away, with little aural separation. So their dramatic tensions and bursts of energy don't translate, like they can't quite reach you. It's like the way old Hollywood filmmakers used to put gauze on the lens when they'd shoot closeups of the leading ladies, or to be a bit more direct, like the indistinct "mush" that R.E.M. wanted for Murmur, only with music this pop and "epic"-toned in aspiration, it doesn't come off.

On the bright side, the guitar is terrific for the entire duration, and at times this has the immersive quality of the best jangle-pop circa J&MC or the Church. Something's keeping it too far back, though, and what should be beautiful becomes mostly boring. It is excellent to zone out to, and is perfect for your background dinner-music needs; the more you try to find your way in, though, the more it seems to fall apart.

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