Peaking Lights 936 Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

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.

Peaking Lights, a husband-and-wife duo from America’s west coast, take the right approach to incorporating myriad influences into a streamlined soundworld: use only what you need, not what you can just because it’s there. So echoes of dub, twitches of house, the lo-fi sigh of chillwave and the rough-edged charm of bedroom-born indie swirl about a psychedelic centre that roots everything in solid foundations. From here tangents sprout; but never do the pair lose sight of a key motif, something to lock onto and embrace the attention. Tiger Eyes (Laid Back) recalls the half-asleep beats of Screamadelica, placing a percussive backbone behind airy vocals from Indra Dunis. As its suffix suggests, Birds of Paradise Dub Version presents similar reverberations, low-end rumbles stretched into enveloping waves of rippling warmth. Throughout, delicate and sparse guitar work navigates the track towards The xx as reimagined by King Midas Sound: surely a sound worth experiencing by the many.

But mainstream-friendly isn’t really a description that can be affixed to this eight-tracker, its makers’ first to be released outside of the US. While 936 takes cues from acts who’ve breached commercial territories, there’s a singular craft to the stitching together of constituents here – crossover is relatively unlikely as Peaking Lights adhere to no particular scene. Fans of Warpaint will enjoy the fuggy atmosphere that hangs heavy over Dunis’ vocals; rhythmical repetition will strike a nod-along chord with Krautrockers of the world; the sunshine-kissed shimmer of opening instrumental Synthy is comparable to the rainbow electronica of Boxcutter; and All the Sun That Shines is a different-accented cousin of the continental tropicalia of El Guincho, slower but certainly with sand in its socks as it shimmies along its way.

936 is a delight, a ray of welcomed sunshine as the wintry outside fades into shades of grey. One feels the band’s next album, expected in early 2012, may take them into sharper focus for those who might not commit the necessary time to this less-immediate material. One hopes that they can turn this wonderful stuff into a (relatively) commercially viable concern without compromising its delicious looseness, or its simple but addictive grooves.

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