California-based experimental pop duo Peaking Lights are not afraid to ask some of life’s biggest questions and look beyond the confines of earth for answers.
Husband-wife duo Peaking Lights have perfected the art of making a groove so mellifluous that you wish it would never end. Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis (whose initials, incidentally, spell out ACID) rose to prominence last year with the sleeper hit 936, which put dub, lo-fi and psychedelia through the musical blender to create a hypnotically mellow summer soundtrack. Specialising in creating sprawling organic jams that sound as though they could last forever, their follow up, Lucifer, which is out on the appropriately-named Weird World Record Co. this month pushes this aesthetic even further. Utilizing an even more kaleidoscopic set of musical ingredients including afro-beat and reggae, Peaking Lights once again set out to elude categorisation and drowsily blur the notion of genre.
“Some good friends that we played the record to first when it was still in its conception and before it had been mixed all said the same thing… that this record was like a night time version of the sound that we’d been working with,” explains Aaron, who makes talking over Skype feel more like catching up with an old friend than interviewing a stranger living over 5,000 miles away.
The album opens with the twinkling of ‘Moonrise’ and closes with the tentative murmurings of ‘Morning Star’, accompanying you through the hours of darkness like an ultra cool pirate radio station. “When people listen to it I just want them to feel really good and positive. I really like that Lucifer means ‘morning star’ and that it’s the first sign of daylight. There are a lot of really positive things around the name that both of us were attracted to.” If this is what a night with Peaking Lights sounds like then they must throw some of the best house parties ever. So what about the sinister, ominous connotations of the name Lucifer?
“It’s funny because a lot of language gets changed around and misconstrued by power structures. In the Bible, Jesus is referred to as Lucifer, which is the morning star. It’s interesting that it got turned around and bastardised in such a way through the power structures and people wanting to put up smoke screens about what’s real and what’s not. Where do these words that we use even come from? What can be eaten up by the masses or sold to them doesn’t really have anything to do with the reality or where it comes from.” Rant over and it’s clear that while conventionally Lucifer carries satanic connotations, these guys don’t really do convention, and for them the album title is “more to do with having things brought to light, new ways of existing.” Just as anticipation builds throughout darkness in the countdown to daylight and the rejuvenating morning star, the tones of optimism build steadily throughout the album, culminating in the uplifting and funky ‘Dreambeat’ as weary party goers push on through to dawn.
References to astrology and astronomy permeate the album and maintain a soothing celestial quality throughout; in fact, it’s easy to imagine some of these songs playing inside some pimped up flotation tank. This, however, is just one aspect of their multi-faceted sound. “It’s not like when we write songs [we think that] because this particular astrological event is happening we should probably keep it in this particular key. It would be cool if we did do that, maybe someday we’ll do that and create the masterpiece,” jokes Aaron.
While many groups will cite a few pivotal albums or bands that they have been inspired by, these guys point instead to a myriad of interests and aspects of living, astrology being just one of them: “The lyrics always have a lot to do with nature. We study and we read about things that maybe people consider occult. To feel open about what is out there in the world is very important. There are just so many infinites and I feel good trying to find those infinites rather than being afraid of them.” Eclipsing all these infinites was the birth of their first son, Mikko, whose presence can be felt throughout the album.
“He’s become a taste maker – when he starts bobbing his head we know we’re in the right direction”. He has a more tangible presence on tracks ‘Beautiful Son’ and particularly ‘Lo-Hi’, where he can be heard crying beneath the dub-inflected beat, shimmering keys and what sounds like pan pipes, (but such are the layers of sound that it’s hard to tell, and far easier to just lose yourself in the groove). “’Lo-Hi’ is about exploring the world through a child’s eyes, the ups and downs like a roller coaster, going through the peaks and valleys. He’s inspired a lot of it. As a parent you don’t want to be jaded, we want to teach our child about happiness in life, being good, being a loving person… being able to share and connect with other people.”
Fusing an exotic range of musical styles and a host of slightly esoteric pursuits, Lucifer sweats optimism and warmth without ever sounding cheesy or artificial. “Both of us like so many different kinds of music and just try to let those things flow through us. For us, we don’t really write the songs, they just kind of happen.” Long may it continue.
Words: Henry Wilkinson
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