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Christmas In America

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BBC – Music – Review of Peaking Lights

Written by on October 17, 2020


This six-track dub remix collection, which adapts the content of Peaking Lights’ second UK-released album Lucifer, is an unconventional if not unprecedented move. Appropriate, as “unconventional if not unprecedented” could describe this band in general.

Emerging into the American experimental rock undergrowth a few years back, the LA duo – married couple Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis – developed a soothing, personalised sound that took in dub reggae, Krautrock and classic UK indiesperimentalists like A.R. Kane and Cocteau Twins.

2011’s 936 LP broke them out of the cassette-culture scene; Lucifer, which followed a year later, cranked up the melody levels without sacrificing the band’s essence. At times, it echoed what Primal Scream gunned for with Screamadelica. But even they weren’t handy enough to do their own remixes.

In contrast, everything on Lucifer in Dub has been treated by Coyes himself. On Cosmick Dub, which was already hazily reverbed as Cosmic Tides, the drums and bass are given new, booming depth and Dunis’ vocal becomes more gauzy, less intelligible.

Peaking Lights’ recording methods don’t seem to be vastly different to King Tubby, Lee Perry and other founding fathers of dub: a reliance on analogue gear and guitar, bass and drums providing most of the source material lends their sound its proverbial warmth. Coyes is channelling more than just the Jamaican classics here, though.

On the evidence of the rolling, dancefloor-friendly basslines added to Live Dub, Midnight Dub and others, an appreciation of dub/techno linker-uppers – Sabres of Paradise in the UK, the Basic Channel collective in Germany – seems likely. Lucifer in Dub will probably prove to be headphone music more than club fodder, but it demonstrates Coyes’ skill for drum programming, which was only hinted at on the original album.

In addition to Peaking Lights’ remix adventures, which Coyes describes as “playing as the engineers,” the six tracks were mastered by former Spacemen 3 member Sonic Boom. Presumably, he can take much of the credit for how satisfyingly weighty the result feels; but that Lucifer in Dub remains emotionally resonant, and is a successful experiment, is largely down to this commendable couple.


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