Release Date: Feb 8, 2011
Record label: Not Not Fun
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Dunis channels the hushed seclusion of Vashti Bunyan's vocal styling on "Hey Sparrow," one of the only slightly more traditionally structured tracks. The quietly devotional "Amazing and Wonderful" encapsulates the overall vibe of the album. Moody guitars and woodwind-emulating synths bounce lazily over a dark rhythm track as noisy interjections stumble in, look around, fade away.
The past few years have been a boon for Not Not Fun, with major minor successes like Ducktails and Sun Araw undoubtedly exposing the label beyond its base. And simultaneously, in what seems like a positive feedback process, the label — and much of the L.A. scene that it documents — has moved in new directions, releasing more albums that feature more accessible structures and harmonies, tenuously maintaining the label’s past hallmarks of noise and damaged jamming.
It's difficult not to be overly descriptive when talking about the kind of music that Wisconsin dub-pop duo Peaking Lights make. The band's amoebic, sun-speckled concoctions are decidedly psychedelic; these guys do an eight-and-a-half-minute song called "Marshmellow Yellow", after all. But the band's sophomore record, 936, is less structurally ambiguous than it appears: If you can resist getting totally stranded in its opiate-friendly atmospheres, the joys of 936 are easy to pin down.
It’s going to be hard to add anything new to describing an album that, though only available physically in Europe this month, has effectively been available online in one form or another since springtime when released on US label Not Not Fun. Coming out over here as it does now with nights unfurling earlier and temperatures angling for a dive, the woozy ambience of Wisconsin duo Peaking Lights' debut feels, in this context, more a nostalgic paean for past experiences shared than those up ahead, a record that’s very titles – ‘Birds Of Paradise’, ‘Marshmellow Yellow’ through to the more explicit ‘All The Sun That Shines’ and ‘Summertime’ – suggest a sound longing for yawning daylight, for beaches baring fresh footprints and terrain coloured by the scorched hazel of a naked sun. Yet it’s that very nostalgia that marks 936 out as a record with longevity, and not just a seasonal distraction; the overriding, loose connective tissue of its elements - half-lost, half-explorative, wholly contented – seem to move in different tenses, the vocal hooks that play off ‘All The Sun That Shines’, for example, are instantaneous enough to perforate the cerebrum with immediate satisfaction, but set against the hazy reminiscing qualities of soft-edged dub and throbbing repetition of the sonic bed below it.
First released in the US last spring, 936 is the UK debut by Peaking Lights – a romantic and musical partnership in which tattoos and long hair feature prominently. None of this really prepares you for their sheer uncategorisability. You could call this a dub record, but it's not reggae – more a pulsating fusion of burbling analogue synthesisers and ancient psychedelia occasionally topped off by the echoey vocals of Indra Dunis, a kind of lost, mellow American member of the Slits.
Captivating grooves abound on the west coast duo’s first UK LP. Mike Diver 2011 Smorgasbord albums can be trying listens, attempts to mesh a mishmash frequently resulting in missteps undermining what might’ve otherwise been a solid and satisfying collection. Ambition is to be encouraged, sure; but when acts think of themselves too highly, assuming that if they can nail rudimentary indie-rock riffs then a little electro aside segueing into some half-arsed mimicking of something avant-garde is fair game too, end products are rarely worth the polycarbonate plastic they’re presented on.