There’s a scene in Stand By Me where Chris, Teddy, Gordie and Vern are forging their way through the Castle Rock woods, dancing in step along train tracks to the Chordettes’ “Lollipop.” Although the song suggests a devil-may-care sense of joyful abandon, there is a steep presence of danger lurking around every corner, be it Milo Pressman’s junkyard mutt Chopper, the threat of an oncoming train, or the dead body rotting in the river nearby.
There is a similar moment in Lotus Plaza’s “Quicksand,” the second track off of Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt’s The Floodlight Collective. With the spirited bounce of a Del Vikings-reminiscent drum and shoegaze guitar weaving in and out of echoes of tambourine, “Quicksand” has a ’60s charm that recalls Brian Wilson at his most hallucinatory. But underneath the endless nets of reverb (and there is reverb a-plenty to be found on The Floodlight Collective), something isn’t quite right. It’s an unsettling feeling that keeps me listening, however much the album’s ten songs tend to spill into each other, often indiscernibly.
Following in the footsteps of Deerhunter co-conspirator Bradford Cox, who recently released Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel under the moniker Atlas Sound, Pundt has made a heavily atmospheric album that veers between noise rock and ’50s and ’60s pop while still sounding like a singular work. There is a great deal to discover in the dense trenches of these ten tracks. “Different Mirrors” hints at ’80s new wave before erupting into a swirl of euphonious harmonies and layers of guitar. “What Grows,” an insistent rocker that would have done the boys of Joy Division proud, prepares us for “Sunday Night,” perhaps the album’s most experimental track. With pattering keyboards tapping over an ascending bass line and ethereal vocals being accented by a screeching guitar caterwauling in the background, it makes for a compelling listen.
And The Floodlight Collective is often both a compelling and distinctive work, undoubtedly. But part of what makes it so distinctive is also what ultimately frustrates. The songs bleed into one another until the reverb-drenched vocals and phantasmic spirals of sound become heavy-handed, almost overwhelming. By the time we arrive at the seven-plus-minute “Antoine,” it might feel as if you’ve been listening to The Floodlight Collective with your head dunked underwater. Perhaps just a gasp of air to break up the endless flood of sound could have done a world of good. Or maybe that’s just not the point.