Release Date: Oct 7, 2014
Record label: ADA
Genre(s): Dub, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Lo-Fi, Noise Pop
When Peaking Lights announced their new full-length album Cosmic Logic with first single "Breakdown" and its misleading Basement Jaxx-like intro, it was clear we were being launched into a brand new iteration of the band's constantly evolving sound. All supremely catchy melodies, simple and almost spoken-word lyricism and constant use of repetition, Cosmic Logic contains probably some of the most accessible material they've released to date, material that'll hopefully attract a whole new slew of fans. There's a lot to love within the album's 11 tracks: charming ode to the Riot Grrrl movement "New Grrrls" name-checks everybody from Lydia Lunch and Kim Gordon to Yoko Ono and Angela Davis, and includes darling lyrics such as "feminism gave me a choice, Riot Grrrl gave me a voice," while "Eyes To See" manages to make a beguilingly simple chorus out of "shhhhhs," "ahhhs" and "oooohs" that actually works.
Peaking Lights toured their last album, 2011’s ‘936’, for nearly two years, so this follow-up is a little overdue. However, LA husband-and-wife duo Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis have made the wait worthwhile. Where ‘936’ was a krautrock and dub extravaganza, ‘Cosmic Logic’ finds them embracing a cleaner sound. ‘Telephone Call’ bounces with a bright electro bassline; ‘Hypnotic Hustle’ has a funky, Chicago house charm and ‘Bad With The Good’ glistens with the confidence of an Italo disco single.
Far out musical couple Peaking Lights are the picture of relaxation. Spill wine on their carpet, they’d cover it up with a beanie bag and forget the whole scene. Introduce them to a pet dog, they’d likely offer it a couple of tokes. That’s at least the impression solidified from previous two albums ‘936’ and ‘Lucifer’, both of which evolve the foundations of dub (evolve with a capital E), stretching songs beyond the five minute mark like it’s an instinct, not a chore.
With their 2012 album Lucifer, cosmic indie dub duo Peaking Lights peeled back the lo-fi froth that had defined much of their output up until that point, recording in an actual studio and meeting the stoned, formless wandering of their earliest work halfway with the more in-focus pop production of some of their contemporaries. Graduating from home-dubbed cassette releases to high gloss studio recordings is where a lot of indie bands lose that special something that makes them what they are to begin with, but Peaking Lights have managed to retain their identity and even expand on the best elements of their echo-soaked, groove-heavy sound. Cosmic Logic continues this trend, moving further away from submerged sonics and incorporating more beat-minded experiments with bass and rhythm into their dub-pop hybrid.
Peaking Lights’ last studio album, 2012’s Lucifer, was a slow, dense and foggy collection of eight tracks, two thirds of which passed the six-minute mark. A remix album – Lucifer In Dub – was released later that year, but it felt entirely unnecessary: the source material already sounded like a 21st-century take on the work of dub maestros King Tubby and Mad Professor. In the meantime, the Los Angeles-based husband-and-wife duo proved to be highly adept remixers themselves on their stellar version of Young Galaxy’s Pretty Boy: instead of burying the original under echo-plex effects and clattering percussion, they burnished it to a bright, pristine sheen.
It’s easy to get cynical about the current state of indie dance music. The same synthesizer sounds, 808 drum loops and drowned-in-reverb vocals echo through all the trendy music blogs and hipster playlists, music that for years has been derived from the same sources: garage rock, funky dance pop, psych-rock, post-punk, etc. Stagnation is imminent, but not yet pronounced.
Peaking Lights are writing pop songs now. This isn’t to say that their earlier works weren’t permutations of pop in their own rights, but Cosmic Logic finds a Peaking Lights led not by a sprite through winding dub-tunnels, but by the deadpan angel of electronic psych-pop. While Indra Dunis’s vocals were once used, as in the dub tradition, as another instrument in a collection, they are now leading the songs.
From the “dub version” of their 2011 song “Birds of Paradise” to the remixing of their entire 2012 album, Lucifer, Peaking Lights have flirted with genres outside the one they started with for years. On their sixth album, Cosmic Logic, the California-based husband-and-wife duo take the plunge all the way out of the ambient psychedelia that flourished inside their first few records into a beat-heavy, dub-inflected corner of synthpop. Cosmic Logic is by far the most concrete work Peaking Lights have laid to tape, and at points it can hammer down too bluntly.
Psychedelia is traditionally a means of escape and out-of-body transcendence, but in the case L.A.-via-Wisconsin duo Peaking Lights, its function is more insular and grounding. For creative and life partners Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis, bliss really is a product of hugs, not drugs: their dubwise, synth-smudged psychedelic pop is as lyrically sentimental as it is musically ethereal, and offers proof that the hot-blooded rush of romance and the dizzying delirium of new parenthood are as potent as any chemical supplement. But in the wake of their 2012 breakthrough LP Lucifer, Peaking Lights are now at the point where their humble recording project has become a full-fledged career, one that requires regularly breaking out of their cocoon.
L.A.'s Peaking Lights are Indra Dunis and Aaron Coyes, a husband-wife duo who meld psychedelia into bubbly dub ditties. On their fourth album, the pair explore the more lysergic parts of our world through gossamer electronica, buoyant vocal effects and metaphysical grooves. Recent years of parenting have expanded their sense of awe, emerging in wide-eyed, twinkly numbers like "Little Light." While their simplistic lyrics can leave listeners yearning for further enlightenment, sometimes the earnestness works, as on the lullaby-esque "Tell Me Your Song." It's not all bad when we don't understand what's beyond us, Cosmic Logic seems to suggest.
For a band who are so undeniably poppy, Peaking Lights draw influence from an impressively eclectic variety of places. Layered over their swampy, effortless brand of synth-pop are traces of dub, disco, house, psych and indie, and perhaps one of the reasons for their success may be their ability to incorporate these influences into a single cohesive, identifiable sound. On Cosmic Logic, they continue to exercise this ability, but occasionally forget to stretch it quite far enough.