Lockett Pundt is best known for his role within Deerhunter, for which his two main contributions to 2010′s Halycon Digest, “Desire Lines” and “Fountain Stairs,” were some of the strongest compositions on the record and broke away from Bradford Cox’s stumbling yet blissful melodies and into a land of colorfully rhythmic chord progressions and effortlessly cool vocals. The two tracks were undoubtedly a maturation of Pundt’s first solo full length as Lotus Plaza, 2009′s The Floodlight Collective — a foggy, hallucinatory, washed-out album where the songs blend together amidst mostly unintelligible lyrics. The child-like charm of the album is echoed by its cover, which depicts a small boy playing on a simple toy horse, presumably within his own backyard. The cover for Pundt’s second full-length is sparse in comparison; there are no signs of life, and the only real object in the frame is a small bundle of yellow balloons in the corner. One could make a pretty good case for personifying the balloons, arguing that this album is Pundt floating away and rising above wherever he’s been in the past. I like to think, however, that Pundt is more likely to be the one on the ground, letting the balloons go. Spooky Action At A Distance (acronym: SAAAD) is an album that finds its protagonist on a precipice of uncertainty: too old for artless pleasures, but still unsure of who to trust, where to go, and how to live.
The aforementioned Deerhunter songs, “Desire Lines” and “Fountain Stairs” would fit in perfectly anywhere on Pudnt’s latest offering, whose ten tracks never miss a step, constantly maintaining the high bar set by recent Deerhunter and Atlas Sound releases. The album’s first song and lead single, “Strangers,” is an instantly infectious tune with rolling drums and spiraling guitar riffs that struggle to keep pace with each other during the final minute, when each section progressively slows to a crawl. The rhythmic descent doesn’t seem to be perfectly in sync, which, in turn, perfectly transitions into the next track, “Out of Touch”, with droning vocals and distorted guitars reminiscent of ’90s shoegaze classics.
Pundt delivers a halftime burst of energy with “Monoliths,” where the pessimistic, Lennon-esque opening lyrics, “There’s no world, and no god” are trumped by the latter half’s “One of these days, I’ll come around.” The momentum carries into “Jet Out of the Tundra,” in which dramatic and punctual piano notes hold down the fort for the whirling guitars on the album’s longest but always captivating cut. The album ends on a high, albeit somber note with “Black Buzz,” with Pudnt’s slow, calculated delivery taking a page from some of Cox’s recent work on Parallax. The final lyrics of the album, “at the cliff, now on your own free will/ draw the shades down to the windowsill,” are at both times encouraging and melancholy, but nonetheless display the maturation that Pundt has undergone throughout the album and his career — moving from the haze of uncertainty to the moment of decisiveness.
Spooky Action At A Distance doesn’t experiment with many new rhythms or electronic sounds like some previous Deerhunter releases, but in no way does this detract from the album’s overall merit. “Eveningness” is a perfect example: the sunny guitar riffs and dreamy vocals appear simple and effortless on the surface, but Pundt masterfully tweaks the chords and layers on new melodies throughout, in effect, displaying an organic evolution of his style rather than a forced foray into unfamiliar territory. Combine this with Pundt’s always engaging lyrical vacillation and Spooky Action At A Distance coalesces into a coming of age, a beacon of the future, and one of 2012′s best performances so far.
Stream: Lotus Plaza – “Strangers”