Peaking Lights - Cosmic Logic

by Christina Bryant Rating:7 Release Date:2014-10-07

Aaron Coyes, a noise musician, and Indra Dunis, a no-wave singer and drummer, meet, get married, move from California to Wisconsin and back again, birth two beautiful sons, and through it all, write four albums as Peaking Lights. That’s love. A love that fuels catchy beats and commonplace but endearing lyrics.

Peaking Lights' earlier albums Imaginary Falcons, 936, and Lucifer were steeped in raw and rougher-edged sounds, often organic in nature despite their electronic origins. The results were rhythmic and atmospheric soundscapes, with dashes of 60s psychedelic reverb, dancehall, and pop hooks tossed in for good measure, with Dunis’ extremely laid-back, even-keeled vocals draping over.

Their new release, Cosmic Logic, synthesizes those into smartly arranged and more polished beats that encourage you to move it. While the finish and intelligence of the programming is impressive, the sounds themselves are not always imaginative and alluring. It is filled with synths, drum-pads, and keyboards that would comfortably nestle in with any 80s best-of playlist. 

Unfortunately, that means sometimes they are a bit too familiar. However, how they intertwine with hand-drumming, like on ‘Telephone Call’ and ‘Everyone and Us’, is very refreshing. And occasionally, you get a song like ‘Hypnotic Hussell’ that uses the 80s motif very well.

A true standout on the album is ‘Dreamquest’. By far one of Peaking Lights most dynamic songs, it starts with a lush, jungle-evoking synth-beat and degenerates into quirky glitches, only to lift into a downright beautiful dance hook. Also worth noting is the opener, ‘Infinite Trips’; a youthful and spirited song perfect for a coastal drive.

Both of these songs capture the best of Peaking Lights. Dunis’ vocals can at best feel relaxed, at worst, lazy to a pretentious degree. Cosmic Lights seems to highlight the latter, but not on these two songs.

‘Dreamquest' is dynamic enough in its structure that Dunis’ vocals lie down calmly within the waves of sounds. It’s a perfect balance. On the other hand, on ‘Infinite Trips' her voice is carefree, like a confident teenager, and her joy infectious; we get more emotion from her than any other song and it’s truly fun.

Unfortunately, most of the other songs do not achieve this balance; they are too minimal and repetitive to layer her emotionless vocals and simple lyrics (though in ‘New Grrrls,’ a shout out to the kick-ass women of yesterdays, and a laundry list of the plights of today’s woman, we get a taste of something more). The album can start to flat-line if you are in the mood for anything juicier either for your feet or your ears.

Still, there is a charm to these two that will keep pulling you back in. Perhaps when Coyes referred to the band as "fucked modern pop" (but “what that is, I don’t know, we’re still trying to figure that out”) it has something to do with the push-pull that they create. 

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