Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lockett Pundt stands on his own two feet with sophomore solo LP

I've made two critical mistakes since I began blogging here, both of them involving the same band. The first came when I had the chance to see Deerhunter, and instead elected to review a Fang Island concert.
The other was when I inadvertently passed up reviewing the Atlas Sound's Parallax record last year. Needless to say, I won't be repeating that mistake with Lotus Plaza's Spooky Action at a Distance, which serves the dual purpose of not only showing how stacked with talent Deerhunter's roster is, but also reminding us that we should probably count ourselves fortunate to be inhabiting the same planet as them.

Spooky Action at a Distance is the second solo effort from Lockett Pundt, better known as the guitarist for  shoegaze heroes Deerhunter. And generally the album's sound is not a huge departure from that of Deerhunter, though Pundt does sneak in a couple of personal influences from time to time. "Eveningness" and "Strangers" easily sound as if they could have been pulled from Deerhunter's latest record, Halcyon Digest. Both tracks highlight the dreamy hypnotic style that defined that album and nicely sum up Pundt's playstyle. There are also some pretty catchy hooks there, to boot.

One of Pundt's greatest talents is his ability to express ideas through sound. I don't mean simply expressing emotion. There are plenty of talented artists who can do that. What Pundt does is express tangible, concrete concepts using nothing more than sound. Take "Jet out of the Tundra," a song based on the principle of motion. This song makes me imagine sitting in the window seat of a bus and watching the trees and fields as they pass by.

Incidentally, that's almost the exact same way that Pundt himself described the feeling of the track in interviews. And he's able to get this message across using nothing more than chord progressions. Pundt has stated that the inspiration for the track came from constant din and shuffle of life on tour. It is actually rather reminiscent of the closing coda to Deerhunter's "Desire Lines," a song Pundt also wrote.

Furthering the similarity to Deerhunter is the fact that Pundt's voice is not too far off from Bradford Cox. His voice is a little deeper and flatter, but for the most party fairly interchangeable with Cox.

"White Galactic One" is anchored by the most swaggering and swashbuckling riff on the album, which sounds like something out of some kind of warped, alternate dimension shindig. Meanwhile, "Monoliths" gets straight to the point almost immediately, and is carried by one of the catchiest hooks on the album.

The album's finest moment comes perhaps with Black Buzz, a Lee Hazlewood inspired piece focusing on the dredges of mental addiction. It has a very smoky, western feel to it, and a healthy dose of reverb on the vocals. It's like you were listening to it in a haze filled room. The lyrics, which speak of the effort to kick drug addiction, are poetic and well done; Pundt explains well how easy it is to find yourself stuck in an unending cycle. "Once was becomes a never will," he notes.

Bradford Cox may be the driving force behind Deerhunter, but Pundt shows the band wouldn't be who they are without his signature dream like playing style. His debut solo LP, Floodlight Collective, buried his voice under a wall of fuzz and distortion, but Spooky Action at a Distance sees Pundt now beginning to find his way as an artist and performer. His vocals and lyrics are clearer, and the composition sounds much more well thought out. The result? It's not just noteworthy in comparison to Deerhunter's works. Spooky Action at a Distance proves it's a great record of its own accord.

Score: 92/100

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