Album Reviews

Peaking Lights – 936

(Not Not Fun) UK release date: 21 February 2011

Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis (a husband and wife duo from Madison, Wisconsin, the latter formerly a member of Numbers) have toned down the noisier elements of their sound without sacrificing interest or depth to create this, the most successful of their two full lengths so far. Peaking Lights occupy a fertile intersection between hazy, dream-like pop, dub and electronica. Elements of their sound will be familiar to admirers of Forest Swords, High Places and Pocahaunted but few will have heard such a disparate array of influences combined so effortlessly before.

936 begins with an imposing ambient drone and a combination of fuzzy distortion and high pitched overtones. For a brief moment, it looks as if this will be quite a combative, unwieldy and unsettling experience. Yet this introduction, titled Synthy with amusing and pithy accuracy, merely serves as an overture to something less easy to define. The short collection of material that follows could not reasonably be defined as song-based, although there are plenty of vocal hooks. Neither could it reasonably be classified as guitar music, although Aaron Coyes’ guitar plays a crucial role. Perhaps more defining are the laid back but integral rhythms and the heavy, foregrounded distorted basslines.

Tiger Eyes is a brilliant case in point. Right at the front of the music – its most attacking element – is an imposing and insistent bassline. Similarly dirty percussion underpins the track, although this is all surrounded by some disarmingly pretty keyboard and synth sounds, a slightly listless, understated vocal and some sharp stabs from the guitar. The lingering sensation is one somewhere between menace and celebration.

More ecstatic is the incandescent All The Sun That Shines. Although it has ragged edges, this music is also driving and powerful. There’s a sense of euphoria on this and the track that immediately follows it, the extraordinary, blissful Amazing and Wonderful. Here, the blurring, cascading guitar lines create a happily disorientated sound which is anchored by the consistent percussion and the repeating bass figure.

Perhaps the only slight mis-step is the calmer, folk-tinged Hey Sparrow. It’s clearly trying to provide a moment of unadorned delicacy, but the intentionally out of tune keyboard lines are a little odd, and the vocal risks accusations of tweeness. The slightly out of focus closer Summertime traverses similar ground with a much surer footing.

The music on 936 is woozy, hypnotic, sometimes intentionally uneven – but it works wonderfully. It’s a great example of a hybrid form, made by a collaborative duo with inquisitive ears. There may be better to come from this team – as excellent as 936 is, these lights may not be peaking quite yet.

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Peaking Lights – Cosmic Logic
Peaking Lights – Lucifer
Peaking Lights – 936