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PEAKING LIGHTS E-S-C-A-P-E gets 8/10


Peaking Lights
E S C A P E
Dekmantel

8/10

Peaking Lights may have relocated to Amsterdam from the USA two years ago, but their day-glo psychedelic dub-pop hasn’t skipped a beat from their strong run of releases in the 2000s. The husband and wife duo began as a lo-fi proposition, part of the wave of late 2000s/early 2010s bedroom producers. After several rather rough and noisy releases, they emerged with a more chilled vibe on 936, their breakout 2011 album for Not Not Fun. 936 showed off a newfound, smart dub aesthetic, but with a warm indie-hippie sensibility. Since then, the production values have soared, with the guitars gradually giving way to more samples, loops and beats.

The palette of sounds Peaking Lights works with are vaguely familiar, drawing from a dub-Krautrock template, but that would be grossly underselling the craftsmanship that’s apparent in their music. Subtle, and not so subtle, sounds and studio effects permeate all the tracks, with a healthy adherence to the dub principles of addition and negation that push and pull the tracks along. Moreover, Peaking Lights have a decidedly playful sense of melody that is uniquely theirs. It’s hard to put a finger on, but the melodies are an immensely enjoyable and recognisable component to their compositions that are now increasingly built upon a framework of beats and loops.

Even though the songs have benefited from the crisp, clear production over the years, what hasn’t changed is Indra Dunis’s wonderful singing. Located somewhere between Nico’s deadpan intonations or Beach House’s Victoria Legrand’s heartfelt huskiness, it’s her earnest and tuneful vocals that infuse the rhythms with the human touch that gives the project a genuine wholesomeness. The lyrics draw from a psychedelic-cosmic-Buddhist template, giving the songs an appropriately friendly levity.

E S C A P E oscillates between the driving dancefloor numbers and more spacious dub tracks. First single EVP concerns ‘electronic voice phenomena’ – the inadvertent capturing of the voices of ghosts and whatnot on recordings. Pitch-shifted drones soar overhead of a steady beat, the melody spooky yet playful. Soft Escape begins with a Euro-disco feel then keeps building and expanding into a beefier rhythm as it moves along to the trippy lyrics: “Take a step and just forget, just leave your worries on the floor/ A hundred branches, I wait for answers, but I may never know”.

Other serious groovers are Innerterrestrial and Silver Clouds with echoey dub effects that pull the tracks forwards, like opening a door in a hall of mirrors to reveal even more mirrored doors. Traffic is one of the longer tracks but makes use of the time to build the layers up gradually to hypnotic effect.

As opposed to the pacier numbers, the minimalistic and chilled reggae-infused tracks such as Eyes Alive and Dreams cruise along in a sunlit-dappled daydream, drawing from Jamaican sounds and styles but with a studio-savvy feel with compression and reverb effects throughout. Closing track Change Always Comes features only Indra’s voice, piano and a low wash of synths – a fitting trip over the horizon to follow the setting sun.

Since Peaking Lights hit their stride in the early 2010s, they seem to be incapable of making a bad record. E S C A P E is another excellent entry in their catalogue, and a perfect jumping-on place if you haven’t heard much from this indie-dance duo before. And for Peaking Lights fans it’s another opportunity to enjoin Dunis and Coyes again on a fun psychedelic-cum-pop romp.

PAUL DOUGHTY

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