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Peaking Lights – 936 review

Hailing from Madison, Wisconsin, husband and wife duo Peaking Lights make sun-speckled dub pop psychedelia. The premise is simple: deep repetitive bass, catchy drum loops, extended grooves, and ethereal vocals that also work on repetition and cavernous echo. The result: a perfectly blissed-out long player for the summer months, one that will linger in your head long after the album’s played out.

Since the duo spent some time in California and record on the intriguing Not Not Fun label, an immediate comparison can be made to fellow labelmate Sun Araw, who operates in the same hypnotic manner, but while 936 leans heavily on dub influence for groove, it also pays homage to lo-fi psychedelic rock. Even though the tracks are deep and sludgy, they still manage to feel open and airy; the songs wander, joyfully going nowhere in particular for up eight minutes.

Take “Tiger Eyes (Laid Back)” for example. Aaron Coyes drops a simple drumbeat, anchors it with a deep bassline for riddim, and tosses in some light guitars, while Indra Dunis provides some haunting, trance-induced vocals and gentle bursts of keyboard. It’s a serene eight minute head-bobber, perfect for afternoon drives down scenic highways – where you’re sitting in shotgun and the windows are down and you’ve got your feet up on the dash, an arm out the window fighting the wind — and you’re smiling, looking over at your friend driving — he’s wearing a pair of old Ray Bans, and he’s playing the steering wheel like a drum, and honking the horn in time to the beat, while he points out useless historical landmarks along the side of the sun-drenched road as you zip by…

While not too far away compositionally from many dub techno artists like Rhythm & Sound or Deadbeat, Peaking Lights style diverges, because instead of going inward they go out – it’s still heady music, but as their name implies, they take the listener skywards, floating in a headspace above the clouds and the mountain peaks, a place where just enough light and warmth peeks through to make you smile. With 936, Peaking Lights creates groovy yet subtly romantic music that allows the listener to cheerfully zone out, whilst also playing with the notion of summer nostalgia, and the result is surprisingly radiant.

Matt Leslie