From the “dub version” of their 2011 song “Birds of Paradise” to the remixing of their entire 2012 album, Lucifer, Peaking Lights have flirted with genres outside the one they started with for years. On their sixth album, Cosmic Logic, the California-based husband-and-wife duo take the plunge all the way out of the ambient psychedelia that flourished inside their first few records into a beat-heavy, dub-inflected corner of synthpop. Cosmic Logic is by far the most concrete work Peaking Lights have laid to tape, and at points it can hammer down too bluntly. But hearing multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Indra Dunis assume such a confident stance against her husband Aaron Coyes’ bright synth configurations can be thrilling.
The most engaging moments in Cosmic Logic‘s densely populated acid trip come when Dunis entangles her vocals in the electronic flora that surrounds her. On “Eyes to Sea”, she locks into one of the album’s most vivid beats with a chain of onomatopoeias, playfully countering the restless drum machines that flicker through the song. “Infinite Trips” forms around one of the record’s only uses of acoustic drums, and Dunis’ interplay with a post-punk bass line propels the song to a feel-good Yo La Tengo plateau. “You’re not alone/ My love will never go,” she sings, as though there were any hint of loneliness in the tropical air around her.
“Telephone Call”, which describes a “telephone call from space” that’s “calling all the human race,” plays a little lackluster as far as first contacts go. While Dunis flattens her vocal tone to mystifying effect against the dubby synth bass, her lyrics — about working together to save humanity at the request of an alien advisor, I guess — are too on-the-nose to allow for much thematic depth. Later, “New Grrrls” stares down similar problems as Dunis recounts her struggles with sexism and attempts to thrive as a musician, mother, and partner all at once. It’s a rich topic, but addressed conversationally against a dub beat, it loses much of the power it might wield in the punk vein its title suggests.
Peaking Lights’ instincts have never led them too far astray. While Lucifer (and its remix album, Lucifer in Dub) held more nuance in its synthpop drift, Cosmic Logic‘s heavy steps only lose their foothold a few times. These grooves are transparent, but they sure have power.
Essential Tracks: “Infinite Trip”, “Eyes to Sea”