If chillwave is a thing, then Lotus Plaza is chillrock. Doesn’t have that same ring to it, does it? That’s because unlike chillwave, it’s actually an apt verbal representation of the musical style it describes. Taken at face value, this ugly new term would seem to denote “boring”, wouldn’t it? You know, like how Deerhunter might sound without Bradford Cox’s songs? Lockett Pundt is incredibly talented, and Spooky Action At A Distance is certainly an accomplishment, but the shadow of Pundt’s more famous band looms inescapably over his solo project.
If you are fully conscious going into this album, the first real song, “Strangers”, might well put you to sleep; its ending even sounds like Pundt is slowly nodding off with the instruments in his hands. Unless, say, you’re on some sort of mind-altering substance; then perhaps you’d “get lost” in its hazy ambience and be transfixed. The goal of Lotus Plaza on this album seems to be to layer so many sounds on top of each other and drench it all in so much echo that you can no longer tell what’s guitar, what’s voice and what’s guitar (WOOPS). You might remember My Bloody Valentine doing something like this a couple decades ago, except that band also wrote lots of incredible songs that contained, y’know, riffs.
A judicious music critic would of course point out that “Monoliths” is an amazing song, with intelligible lyrics, solid vocal harmonies, and an overpowering sense of soaring positivity. Also, the tunes that sound like the Meat Puppets playing at the bottom of a sewer pipe (“Dusty Rhodes”, “White Galactic One”) are pretty cool. Otherwise, most of the songs are forgettable; “Jet Out Of The Tundra” and “Remember Our Days” are curriculum for week three of How To Play Chillwave Guitar (kind of like most of Real Estate’s songs), and “Out Of Touch” is criminal the way it starts out sounding badass and then slowly wimpifies via blob after blob of sedated noise until you’re in a reverb coma.
But here’s the unavoidable truth: The whole album is a faint carbon-paper trace of sounds Deerhunter has already made. If you’re not careful, it could make you start to question your love of Deerhunter. Yes, Deerhunter is one of the best bands in the world, but it’s also largely responsible for the cavalcade of post-riff rock over the past couple of years. Pundt’s songwriting and musicianship is definitely a cut above the imitators, and he can’t be blamed for his desire to keep busy during Cox’s Atlas Sound stints. It’s educational to hear these two artists doing their own things, but Spooky Action isn’t substantial enough to bridge the gap.