I don’t know why the latest Peaking Lights record is called Lucifer. Nor do I know why its predecessor was called 936. I am sure a quick look around the Internet could educate me, but I don’t want to do that, and if I do find out, by no fault of my own, then I may well continue to profess an absolute absence of knowledge in the matter. This sort of willful ignorance is occasionally important. I am not going to tell you why. In any case, I hadn’t even thought about what 936 — the title of a record I probably listened to more than any other released in 2011 — may mean until I was on an airplane flying from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, which is, while being terrible in most other respects, not a bad place to ponder the linking of Lucifer and a set of songs that slip into the world from a set of meandering grooves, stretching out in some twilight realm of psychedelic dub pop, intoxicated and intoxicating, natural accomplices to hot weather and long evenings, slowing bodies down and making them take stock of the many wonders hidden in plain sight. Though there is very little hidden in plain sight on an airplane…
“The dreamer should be content to dream, confident that imagination makes substance.” This sentence of Henry Miller‘s, part of which has been borrowed from Rimbaud, puts me in mind of the slight derangement of senses that seems to me to be encouraged by the sound spaces built up by Peaking Lights, the zero-gravity grooves that are more about dreaming to a place where everyday reality is adjusted just enough to allow mood and apparent incoherence (dream logic) to become meaning without name. Recognition built around an attention to what is always in motion, repetitive but never quite the same. “Moonrise,” the short instrumental piece with which Lucifer begins, suggests the cyclical unraveling of classic Steve Reich works, with a bit of fog imported from the ethnographic ambiance of Jon Hassell and Brian Eno’s collaboration from 1980. African rhythms and fog amplifying an area of green and moisture, opening track as gateway drug in the finest sense of gateway drug, the one less taken.
But the record’s greatest dream song is, so as not to confuse, perhaps, titled “Dream Beat,” a handle in many ways appropriate to the direction Peaking Lights work has taken. (It could doubtlessly use another descriptor, but I have no intention of hazarding one here.) Built on a bouncy, chunky slow-motion house groove, “Dream Beat” is loaded with spiraling melodies in shades of afro-beat, curt guitar lines, and a menagerie of trippiness indices: sounds floating across in pattern like astral trails, measured feedback ruptures, rumblings of virtual tectonic plates. Everything is always and again swallowed back into the body of the rhythm, even the voice of Indra Dunis, who swings in and out, chanting in her sing-song way, arriving again and again at: “My heart beats for you.”
Lucifer is a great follow-up to 936. The records are bound together by the overall sound palate at work, but they move in different ways, in different shapes of bass, reverb, and melody, something having shifted. One could attribute that shift to the birth of Aaron Coynes and Indra Dunis’ first child, Mikko, a little boy who shows up as the subject of the warm and minimal, “Beautiful Son,” and makes his voice heard on the long, wondrous bridge of “LO HI,” which steps aside from the early verses of the song, plodding and dubby, to cozy up heaven bound by the poolside, perfectly designed for whiling away a sultry summer day. This bridge and the whole of “Beautiful Son” arrive at one pole of Peaking Lights essence, a calmly bewitched state of sustained well-being, all the more rapturous for traveling through the heady, but never menacing territories — whatever names they may go by — explored at the other end of their spectrum.
Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland – Black is Beautiful
Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit, Holger Czukay – How Much Are They?
Gala Drop – Overcoat Heat EP