Spooky Action at a Distance (Kranky, 2012)
by Lotus Plaza
originally published at Dusted Magazine
If there isn’t already, I expect there to be a Wikipedia entry one day for album titles that embody a very specific kind of perfection, and for Lotus Plaza’s Spooky Action at a Distance to be there along with, say, In on the Kill Taker and The Lonesome Crowded West. As it turns out, Spooky Action at a Distance does a pretty good job of describing what the album sounds like — Lockett Pundt’s preferred medium is a sunset viewed through dirty glass — but that’s not the kind of perfection I’m thinking of. I’m thinking of the perfection of a signifier that is just short of complete, just askew enough to be meaningless to some and variously beautiful to various others.
By now you will have surmised that this is my model for how the whole album works. Spooky Action at a Distance is bleary and sepia-toned (only bluer, somehow), deceptively inhospitable, never quite in focus. There’s nothing the least bit surprising about it, particularly if you’re acquainted with Lotus Plaza’s first album or with Deerhunter’s weirdly valiant crusade against the notion that songs are supposed to make things happen; there’s just a wealth of ways in which it’s askew, all of them deliberate if you’d like them to be. There’s a harmless stoner’s fascination with time slippage, for instance, which “Out of Touch” both practices and preaches. There’s a trick in the guitar jangle that gives almost all of the songs a shimmering illusion of motion, which “Strangers” casts into relief by slowing to a standstill for no apparent reason. (As on The Floodlight Collective, the resemblance between Lotus Plaza songs and high-speed train rides is both reinforced and complicated by the drums, which are handled with consummate guy-who-plays-all-the-instruments-on-his-own-album competence.) There are a few hooks that R.E.M. might have written. There are several sounds that John Denver might have recorded.
And so on. Spooky Action at a Distance is an album with a lot of footholds — different kinds at that — and it spreads them out in a fashion just as lazy and distracted as the songwriting itself. Those footholds are interesting enough, but not as interesting as the conversations and connections I imagine they will inspire, in five years or in 20, among people who find them meaningless or beautiful in different ways. Deliberately or not, this feels like an album with a future built in. I suspect time will reveal in it a specific kind of perfection that we can all agree on.back