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Peaking Lights - 936

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Artist: Peaking Lights

Album: 936

Label: Not Not Fun

Review date: Mar. 3, 2011

Every once in a while, you find a musical project that would work under any circumstance, even on paper. There’s casual genius, there’s steel-belted conceptual genius, and then there’s the Madison, Wisc., duo Peaking Lights, who wrap both notions into a can’t-miss moment of blissful, dubbed-out splendor that lingers long after it’s ended. Alongside more urban-minded travelers like Blues Control or Religious Knives, who ride similar rigs into the hot and bewildering night, Peaking Lights knows a thing or two about a groove, and how to make it work in the duo’s favor. Unlike those two projects, however, the music on its newest album, 936, leans in on a more established style of music — one that comes from Jamaica — and manages to own the parameters of that sound/vibe without corning out or getting inappropriate. It’s the best non-reggae-oriented dub record of the past 10 years.

Members Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis are not just married; they’re former bandmates in an earlier project, the even more rhythm-centric Rahdunes. Dunis previously performed in Bay Area electro duo Dynasty, and as the drummer of synth-led trio Numbers. Her vocalisms lean toward an enlightened catatonia, that transcendental, instructive, double-tracked style performed by Laetitia Sadier or the late Trish Keenan; paired with the music she makes with Coyes, it seems like they have learned that balance can come through intense abandon, that it’s OK to demonstrate a 360 (or maybe even a 936) now and again to check your perceptions of the cottonball “then” against the meringue-like permanency of the “now.”

When you listen to this duo ride the deep dub riddim alongside some organ and gently played guitar, or how they let that guitar ride covertly atop really thick lo-fi bass, suggestive organ and the slightly moded vibe of the ever-present drum machine, you’re not thinking about how they got there. You’re instead thinking how YOU got there, secretly wondering about what it takes for music to take you to a place such as this, a place where you probably couldn’t have arrived at on your own.

Look, what else do you want me to tell you about this one? It should come with a box of plastic spoons. That’s how thick the presence is across these six tracks, even though the music hovers above the surface like a car on a MagLev track. Peaking Lights’ previous album, Imaginary Falcons, was one seriously hazed stunner, and in some ways more ambitious, but 936 hews to the familiar, inviting the listener in with rounded-off, dreamlike melodies, and a softened yet steady, absolutely unyielding rhythm. It’s a music that lives and dies on texture, the living embodiment of what everyone with toasted brain cells has thought up in some wild, green cloud as a truly revolutionary musical accomplishment: incorporating the sense of touch, the tactile sound of an overdriven yet volume-poor sound fuzzing itself out in the most pleasing of manners.

Their sound is silken burlap, the outdoors brought indoors, the rough with the smooch. There hasn’t been anything so heavy with sounds so mannered and light in some time, and as you listen to 936 over and over (and you will), the cushiony synth/lo-fi/dub loops will become your womb, the place you crawl back into every night to meditate and prepare yourself for the rigors of the day to follow. Basically, if you hate one track, sorry boutcha. If you love any of them, though, you are going to love them all, unconditionally.

By Doug Mosurock

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