Review of 936 Album by Peaking Lights

Peaking Lights make sun-kissed music, but they also make sun-cursed music. The duo's sound features dub-inspired bass and hazy, casually unfocused vocals; so far, so summery. Right now, you're imagining a relaxed and groove-driven record, all easy holiday-season charm, something to keep you cheerful through the cold winter months. That isn't quite the case. A subtle feeling of tension emanates from 936.

Peaking Lights 936 Album

The tension stems from the group's approach the song-writing. Almost every song here sounds thoroughly plotted; from the moment opening track 'Synthy', a swamp of synthesised swooshes and chimes, segues into woozy dub standout 'All The Sun That Shines', you get the sense that every instant has been carefully planned out by the band, perhaps on a large white board with the aid of an elaborate flow-chart. Perhaps this isn't the case at all; perhaps the album was thrown together in an afternoon. Regardless, the effect is the same: the record is both surprisingly dense and surprisingly uptight, given its influences. This isn't a bad thing. On the contrary, it helps distinguish the band from their peers, and serves to add another layer to music which might otherwise lapse into mundane pleasantness.

Let's not overstate things: the precision of the compositions is often far from obvious. Many of the tracks drift past, deliberately stripped of momentum; if you're not paying close attention, they can sound a little meandering. These are sonic moments made to accompany the smoking of particular herbs. Stop to listen more carefully, though; bring everything into focus, and you'll notice a surprisingly dense collage of sounds: a menagerie of exotic synthesised sounds, dashes of guitar, and vocals which come and go, accenting the music.

At its best, 936 is very good. 'All The Sun That Shines', the pretty 'Hey Sparrow', and 'Tiger Eyes (Laid Back)' capture the group at their best, amalgamating loping dub basslines and doe-eyed indie charm. Even at its worst, the album is a casually enjoyable listen. For most listeners, part of the record's appeal will be the novelty value; the group have stylistic peers, but none of them have sold bundles of records. One less than obvious name which might spring to mind is El Guincho; like the Spanish musician, Peaking Lights are fusing dub and electronic music and producing something palatable to indie kids. Their sound is distinct from his, but their music has a similar vibe. In short, then, Peaking Lights are a band worth investigating.

Nick Gale

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