Peaking Lights – Lucifer
Psychedelic duo Peaking Lights’ third record, like its predecessors, occupies an elusive space between pop and ambient, being too indirect for the former yet too up-front for the latter. Their beauty lies within their non-specific use of clearly defined sounds and ideas. Through synth, piano, drum machine and guitar they create dense but unobtrusive alien soundscapes with a DIY feel and a clearly crafted aesthetic. It’s the real world, but it looks different.
An oriental vibe opens ‘Moonrise’ with Eastern percussion offering an impression of somewhere distant but without a narrative of what might be going down over there. Lucifer often uses genre and cultural signifiers to invoke a mood without forcing the storylines traditionally found across the pop spectrum. Synth loops and piano float in and out of ‘Beautiful Son’, which may be about the couple’s child (they’re together, by the way), and the desert psychedelic guitar lead that shows up halfway through could transport you anywhere.
The busier melodies of Lucifer make it more accessible than Imaginary Falcons or last year’s 936. Some of the generic influences that form the base of the tracks are more clearly defined this time around. Peaking Lights tend to pick titles indicative of the tone to follow, hence dub-influenced ‘Cosmic Tides’ is so dense you could swim through it. Though more concerned with texture than individual melodic elements, Indra Dunis’ vocals are full of the kind of hooks you don’t realise are there until they catch you. The deeper you look the more you’ll see, but Lucifer tends to work on a more subliminal level – under the guise of the same generic dub reggae rhythm you’ve heard a thousand times, washes of vocals, synths and effects subtly hypnotise.
It’s like you’re looking at an impressionist photograph and the focus keeps changing. You only realise your eye (or ear) has been drawn to a sound sometime later. Sometimes everything appears to be in focus, sometimes nothing. Peaking Lights mastery of form and formlessness elevate them not just beyond certain comparable acts but also beyond the first impressions of their music as of non-committal, quasi-pop tracks.
The album’s most euphoric moments come with single ‘LO HI’ and its deep bass and looping, monolithic hook. Though Peaking Lights intended Lucifer to be a nocturnal version of their sound it’s still the kind of night you’d get after one of those days of blistering sunshine at the end of May. Come to think of it Lucifer might be your summer album of 2012 or it might not be. It might sound like daylight or twilight, Death Valley or Venus. As much as it’s not an album to be studied and not intended to be a puzzle, its natural brightness and ever-so-slightly canted angle on the world leave a lot of potential interpretations available. My repeated references to genre signifiers and vagueness shouldn’t be taken the wrong way – the album makes a space for you to spend some time and do as you please. Its character, sounds and layers are strong, it just doesn’t tell you how to feel about them.