Lotus Plaza The Floodlight Collective

[Kranky; 2009]

Styles:  shoegaze
Others: Deerhunter, Atlas Sound

On Deerhunter’s 2007 track “Fluorescent Grey,” Bradford Cox repeatedly intones the line, “Patiently, patiently.” Lead guitarist Lockett Pundt has no doubt been exercising this virtue in Cox’s lanky shadow long enough. Although he’s contributed entire songs and sung lead vocals on Microcastle’s “Agoraphobia,” his solo work as Lotus Plaza (thus far limited only to a handful of MP3s on the Deerhunter blog) finally gets the recognition and exposure it deserves.

The music on The Floodlight Collective (named for an old trio consisting of Pundt, Cox, and a friend) sounds exactly like what you’d expect a Deerhunter side-project to sound like: disembodied vocals float around in the ether, while textures likely to be described by blogs the world over as “sparkling,” “shimmering,” “gauzy,” and “lush” dominate the recording. For fans of Deerhunter’s brand of occasionally doo-wop-inflected shoegaze, the disc will be particularly rewarding.

Whether it’s a result of predilection or recording budget, The Floodlight Collective is decidedly more lo-fi and murky than even the most disorienting moments on Cryptograms. Unlike Cox, whose enunciation is especially concise and clear (particularly his curt, sharp endings of words ending in “t”), most of the lyrics Pundt sings are almost impossible to discern. Although the words serve primarily as a vehicle for melody, there is nostalgia and emotional resonance in the few lines I can decipher, which makes me wonder why he seems reticent to more bluntly put his lyrics in the forefront.

Musically, The Floodlight Collective delivers nearly as well as either Deerhunter album that Pundt’s been involved with. “Whiteout” and “Sunday Night,” tracks built around brief guitar loops, offer the clearest example of the guitarist’s individual style, especially after hearing his donated loop forming the basis for Atlas Sounds' “Cold as Ice.” And while album centerpiece “Antoine” carries a lot of Deerhunter’s familiar tropes, it manages to distance itself far from their aesthetic. Imbued with a Kraut-y percussion groove reminiscent of Cluster or Neu!, guitars swell beneath reverberated vocals, as the singer adds multiple layers of subtle embellishment — cascading keyboard patterns and guitar leads — until a full drum kit enters towards the end, propelling the song to its finish. There’s never really a climax, but neither is there the slightest loss of momentum.

The washed-out, overexposed photographs found on the cover reveal a lot about the music of Lotus Plaza. The image betrays a tinge of insecurity at odds with halcyon reminiscence — perhaps the struggle against relinquishing what’s comfortable and familiar. (In fact, “What Grows?” is nearly identical to an earlier demo version posted a while back.) While The Floodlight Collective offers a great set of songs, I’d still like to see Pundt deliver a more idiosyncratic album through which we can truly hear him expose himself.

1. Red Oak Way
2. Quicksand
3. These Years
4. Different Mirrors
5. Whiteout
6. What Grows?
7. Sunday Night
8. Antoine
9. The Floodlight Collective
10. A Threaded Needle

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