The Floodlight Collective
By Clayton Purdom | 10 April 2009
That Lotus Plaza’s debut record is about as good as either/any of the Deerhunter records (which ones count?) is just the sort of plain opinion—a cursory preference among unoffensive alternatives—that it’s best not to quibble over. This being the internet, however, let’s the fuck quibble. Let’s quibble heartily and strong, atop messageboard mountains, bugling our opinions from roflcopters, Rick Rolling for proof. Disagreeing; agreeing; going at peace as kids, with opinions, with sphincters. Anal fistulas: I like Deerhunter. I put them on a podcast. I voted for them at year-end, thought, “Good on you, Deerhunter,” and, reaching a hand through the stink lines emanating from his skull, did pat Bradley Cox atop his superstar head. Deerhunter are something like royalty and I acquiesce accordingly. But for my part, and the part of most of CMG, (whispers) we kinda like this one more.
Not by like a ton. But in a shoulder-shrugging way we kept looking at each other in the past few months and muttering, “Yeah, this one is—maybe, it’s—better?” Lockett Pundt’s solo debut sounds like Deerhunter with the edges sanded off, which is typically my rapier thrust to an artist’s disabused corpse but is to this aesthetic an almost staggeringly flattering move. Cox’s artistry, let’s agree, has claws, and his indulgences have rewarded repeated listens. The Deerhunter records memorably placed his gnashing within gushing ambient pastures and propulsive shoegaze swoons—but perhaps all that gnashing was ill-aimed, popping this legion of balloons attempting, simply, sweetly, to float. It’s true: that emotional violence against sonic beauty could be entrancing stuff. But freed of Cox’s persona, the music rises, unencumbered, heavenward.
This may seem a lofty destination for, you know, indie rock. But, like Deerhunter’s first release, The Floodlight Collective earns its home on high-minded Kranky through sheer force of intent. Like so many of its labelmates its concerns are celestial, toward beauty or a redefinition thereof, but Pundt focuses these efforts through a prism of pop music. Indeed, for an ambient record (which, on repeat listens, it proves to be) it is in love with the sound of instruments, with the girl-group drums bouncing through its opening duo, the feedback squalls and acoustic rhythms of “What Grows?, and the look-at-all-these-keys! piano rolls of “Antoine.” Of course, over those shimmies beneath “Quicksand” (for example) Pundt releases a tidal wave of atmospherics whose crushing ebb alone provides the track’s impetus, the nice guitars playing nice with the nice drums while overhead shit goes insane and beautiful. Or, conversely from “Quicksand,” the midnight stroll of “Sunday Night”‘s central keyboard line burrows through layers of ambience at the track’s outset only to find itself marching solitarily by the track’s end, subsumed by darkening bass rumbles but, it seems, having only taken a different fork in the road, still pacing moodily elsewhere. Point being: pop structures are treated as a loose course over which the enormous production does fire-trailing backflips.
It is keening stuff, large-skied, pretty. Deerhunter aren’t a band to bet against—their pull is large, their sound sublime. But imagine, if you can, a sort of perfect world, a sort of non-internet (is there a word for this?), whereupon a record’s artistry is its sole qualifier; imagine The Floodlight Collective released into this vacuum without referent, one-sheet or newsfeed; imagine, were springtime inclined to arrive, a less slushy world. One would that such things were so. As such, Bradley Cox’s soul-bearing outfit may be the more apt band for our time, or at least our insular community; it is correct for obsession, obsessed as it is with itself, correct as it is for our echo chamber, correct as this home of snakes eating tails and inevitably (probably) Wayne’s wang, famous, fabulous, garish, etc. But against all of these trends and certainties, The Floodlight Collective exudes something astonishing and rare, particularly for a record on the fringes of indie rock, scoping into abstraction. It is, more than anything else, sincere.