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Peaking Lights

When last we heard from Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis, who comprise Peaking Lights, it was early 2012 and they had just released their third full-length album, Lucifer. That album led off with “Beautiful Son,” a piano-laced paean to their newborn son. Just two short years on and Peaking Lights highly-anticipated fourth album, entitled Cosmic Logic, out October 6, 2014 on Weird World Record Co. Shimmering and resplendent, teeming with dance grooves that draw on influences as diverse as Jamaican digital dancehall, Cosmic Italo, Chicago house and acid house, Afrobeat and Zamrock, early west coast hip-hop and disco boogie crossover, Cosmic Logic is the progression in the band’s ever-growing sound, the lo-fi fuzz of their earliest albums now replaced by a bright, joyous pulse.

The story of Peaking Lights goes back nearly ten years. Aaron Coyes was an itinerant noise musician making music under various aliases like Eoh, Faceplant, Hommes, and Unborn Unicorn while living for two years in New Zealand and Australia before returning to California. Back in his native state, he began playing shows in San Francisco’s eclectic punk and noise scene with Rahdunes, who started crashing raves in San Francisco with stacks of noise gear and started “jamming with the DJs.” It was there in 2006 that he encountered Indra Dunis, who sang and played drums in the no wave-punk band Numbers. Indra soon joined Rahdunes, which was her first time playing improvised music, coming from a more song oriented background and classical piano training as a child.

“Peaking Lights started out being a band that improvised everything live” Dunis said. “But we got more and more into creating structured songs.” Aaron Coyes added: “Peaking Lights’ whole thing has always been based on an idea of ‘Fucked Modern Pop.’ What that is, I don’t know, we’re still trying to figure that out.”

Peaking Lights began in earnest when the couple wanted a change from the Bay Area and decided to return to Dunis’s home state. “In late 2007, we moved to Wisconsin to get away from it all,” Dunis said. “We got a house in the country, set up a music studio, and that’s when Peaking Lights started to happen.” Their 2009 debut Imaginary Falcons and 2011’s breakout 936 garnered the duo lots of notice, their mesmeric dubbed-out homemade psychedelia winding up on both dance and indie year-end lists.

“The first stuff we did was recorded on handheld tape recorders with guitars, tape loops and homemade synthesizers and eventually we moved to a quarter inch tape recorder,” said Coyes of his band’s sonic evolution. “Then we went into Gary’s Electric studio in New York City and put Lucifer together in three weeks. But now we have a space to work in of our own and things keep growing and that’s a great feeling.”

Mere weeks after finishing Lucifer, Coyes and Dunis returned to live in Los Angeles, which they have called home the past three years. Coyes built a studio in their back garage and set to work on the seeds that would become Cosmic Logic. “With this record we decided to take our time,” he said. “We did it mostly in our own studio and worked on this record for a year and a half. When we got to the mix stage, we brought in Matt Thornley and went to C’mpny to do the final mix.”

Cosmic Logic opens with the guitar and drum-heavy “Infinite Trips,” a song which Coyes says is “an homage to the opening track ‘Der Song von Mandelay’ on The Flying Lizards debut album – we wanted to come in from left field.” The mood of the record takes a sharp turn when the sputtering drum machines and spacey keyboards kick in on “Telephone Call,” a song that tucks the cosmic into the quotidian. “It was influenced by ideas in the Carpenters’ version of the 1977 cover of Klaatu’s ‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft,’” Coyes said. To which Dunis added: “It’s about keeping an open mind to cosmic messages that can come from anywhere.”

The album traces a singular trajectory through Peaking Lights’ current sonic palette, full of coruscating synths and percolating drum machines. “I think Aaron’s rhythms are definitely influenced by whatever is on his mind: reggae, dancehall, funk, Afrobeat, disco, etc.” Dunis said of the beats that power the album. Cosmic Logic both looks to other musical cultures as well as up to the stars for inspiration, and is a beacon in dark times, a reminder to be at once mindful of the terrestrial and the celestial, to be open-eared and open-minded. Or, as Dunis sings on “Telephone Call”: “Use your heart and not your ears.”