Married Wisconsonites Peaking Lights could not have made the glowing sentiment behind their dusky, lo-fi pomp any clearer than they have with their newest release. Spinners of lo-fi psychedelia and foggy introspection, Indra Dunis and Aaron Coyes have devoted their third album, Lucifer, to the word’s literal translation: It’s Latin for “light bearer” and “Morning Star,” an ancient name for Venus as seen at the break of day. As a result, we’re given a collection of heady, dub-driven songs that set the scene for a brighter vision of their signature hypnotic ambience. Instead of the hazy noise of their previous release 936, Lucifer is inspired by cosmic renewal and the birth of Dunis and Coyes’s son — you can even hear his gurgles on highlight “LO HI” — and seems to reflect some sort of spiritual journey that begins at nightfall and ends at sunrise.
The couple own a curio shop where they sell old records and vintage clothes, so it’s no surprise that their musical crate-digging reflects a certain kind of nostalgia as well. There are the experimental electronic influences of Kraftwerk and early dub mixing of Lee “Scratch” Perry and King Tubby at play. The subtleties of the duo’s production aesthetic, however, make them stand out from the overtly trendy retro-mining of their peers. They’ve cleaned up a bit from their last go and their newer, slicker production masterfully plays krautrock against sparkling homemade synths, roots reggae next to snappy drum patterns, and pan flutes under an idly bouncing baby to blissful results.
For all of the album’s truly gorgeous layers of pretty tinkling chimes and sepia-toned reverb, there’s a delicate melancholy that underlies the duo’s work here too. Dunis deserves most of the credit for that, as her smooth vocals remain seamlessly intertwined with the layers of instrumentation. In “Midnight [In the Valley of Shadows]” mantra-like incantations swell in and out of its surrounding tropics of choppy strings and drum machines. In sunnier moments like “Brighter Son,” her simple lines echo through the running pulse of noise and synths as if sung through a tinny microphone at an empty reception hall in the middle of nowhere. These are things meant for romanticizing, of course: An empty dive bar with a lone couple on its dance floor, midnight ennui, the birth of a baby to a pair of shopkeeping, synth-making musicians. And that’s how Lucifer ultimately ends up living up to it’s name: By proving that even in the darkest hours of the night, the light will indeed peek through.
Lucifer is out now on Mexican Summer.
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