MOTH CLUB, LONDON | June 26, 2017
The stoic DJ and the wide-eyed songstress: it’s a scene straight out of karaoke. Gazing out from Moth Club’s gold-spangled stage, Peaking Lights’ vocalist Indra Dunis surveys the assembling audience with doe-eyed apprehension. To her right, husband Aaron Coyes looms intent behind a stack of plundered electronics. There’s a lot riding on this tour for the Wisconsin-cum-California duo.
Having worked with indie imprints such as Mexican Summer and Domino, Peaking Lights’ sweet-toothed take on psychedelic dub has steadily become trademark over the past decade. Earlier this year, they finally decided to go it alone. Their newly-minted label Two Flowers Records kicked off with February’s Little Flower / Conga Blue 12”, ahead of the band’s sixth studio album release The Fifth State of Consciousness on June 16th. With two young kids in tow, the decision to record, fund and tour the record themselves is bold by anyone’s standard. But as so many of their loose-limbed verses prove, Peaking Lights have a strong track record of slickly navigating the maelstrom.
The nervy opening to ‘Conga Blue’ suggests that Peaking Lights are all too aware of the risks at play. Coyes’ juiced-up bass loop initially overwhelms Dunis’ hushed vocals, but as he laces in waves of sparkling analogue oscillations a magnetic sample-driven crescendo slowly builds. A passive confidence emerges in Dunis’ swirling ruminations as she dips through Coyes’ swelling loops, and within minutes what began as cabaret transforms into an absolute four-on-the-floor belter.
It’s a similar story with The Fifth State of Consciousness’ opening track ‘Dreaming Outside’. Performed a fraction slower than on record, its sluggish plod eventually flourishes under shimmering glockenspiels, subterranean vocals, and a host of other melodic and textural interjections. Transforming eighth grade synth lines into chintz-fuelled charms, it’s at moments like these where Peaking Lights are at their very best.
Echoing a sun-kissed Talking Heads, the duo strike far more directly with ‘Every Time I See the Light’. Here Dunis’ valium-dazed verses take free reign over Coyes’ rampant slurs, proving that when the vocals are allowed centre stage, Peaking Lights can expertly pull off a twinkle pop banger. This dynamic is taken a step too far on ‘I’ll Be The Sky’, whose saccharine synthpop veers towards gloopy in the summer evening heat. Still, after a few forgettable verses, the duo’s marshmallow sequences multiply into an 8-bit celestial concord that could joyously soundtrack any number of N64 glories.
Oozing pheromones, Peaking Lights’ acid-laced pop is the perfect endorphin shot for balmy festival afternoons. At the same time, their pulsating cerebral collages would bubble just as ecstatically across laser-spiked dance floors. Occasionally the pendulum swings too far from one side to the other, but on the occasions where Dunis and Coyes straddle this confluence effectively, it’s nothing short of paradise.