Psychedelia is traditionally a means of escape and out-of-body transcendence, but in the case L.A.-via-Wisconsin duo Peaking Lights, its function is more insular and grounding. For creative and life partners Aaron Doyes and Indra Dunis, bliss really is a product of hugs, not drugs: their dubwise, synth-smudged psychedelic pop is as lyrically sentimental as it is musically ethereal, and offers proof that the hot-blooded rush of romance and the dizzying delirium of new parenthood are as potent as any chemical supplement. But in the wake of their 2012 breakthrough LP Lucifer, Peaking Lights are now at the point where their humble recording project has become a full-fledged career, one that requires regularly breaking out of their cocoon. Given that Doyes and Dunis’ music has always pointed a kaleidoscopic lens on their personal lives, it’s only natural that their sound has changed to reflect their new reality—both the joy of interacting with larger audiences, and the anxieties that result when domestic bliss is disrupted by the demands of making a living on the road.
For Peaking Lights, Cosmic Logic heralds a dramatic aesthetic shift similar to that undertaken by Animal Collective on Strawberry Jam or Beach House on Teen Dream, where a once-mystical entity emerged as an extroverted force, hardening their liquefied sound into more modular shapes, and promoting vocals from textural detail to featured attraction. And from a sonic standpoint at least, Cosmic Logic is a triumph, retaining the heady allure of the band’s earlier records but infusing it with enough rhythmic intricacy and fidgety energy to warrant a band-name change to Tweaking Lights. Within the album’s first three seconds, we’ve already been catapulted several galaxies beyond Lucifer’s subaquatic serenity: Where the beats on previous Peaking Lights albums rarely rose above a tick-tock titter, Cosmic Logic opener “Infinite Trips” surges forth with a thundering drum break that provides the bedrock on which Dunis’ calm coo squares off against space-bound synth oscillations and a Daydream Nation-esque guitar pattern.
The songs on Cosmic Logic are half as long as the ones on Lucifer, but equally stuffed with wondrous detail, giving these compact tracks the compressing effect of a squeezed-out toothpaste tube: “Little Light” craftily invokes both slow-motion dub drowsiness and peak-hour piano-house elation; the seemingly slumberous “Dreamquest” intensifies into a twitchy tropical funk; and “Eyes to Sea” piles on acid-house freakery until its titular incantation starts to sound like “ecstasy.” But even with the punchier, dancefloor-friendly presentation, there remains something comfortably cozy about the sound of Cosmic Logic—Peaking Lights may sound more eager to get crowds moving this time around, but they’d still sooner DJ a rager in your apartment living room than a superclub.
It’s too bad then that Cosmic Logic’s entrancing, otherworldly effects are diminished by some nursery-rhyme-naïve lyrics. Of course, Peaking Lights’ lyrics have never been especially deep (unless you’re referring to their traditional position in the mix). But Cosmic Logic forcefully flips their traditional script, placing Dunis’ voice high above the percolating productions where they were once deeply embedded within them. And, unfortunately, this can place undue emphasis on the inflexible quality of her voice and the rote, reductive nature of her words. She may be singing louder, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s become more emotionally expressive: “Telephone Call” (chorus: Telephone call, telephone call from space/ Calling all, calling all the human race”) feels less like a comment on our modern-day addiction to constant connectivity than the dumbstruck observations of someone who’s just awoken from a 20-year deep sleep and handed their first iPhone. The YACHT-rockin’ “Hypnotic Hustle” and digi-reggae groover “Breakdown”, meanwhile, render the manic rhythm of daily life as a strobe-lit ballet, but Dunis’ anodyne delivery feels oddly disconnected from the tension/release described within; even when she’s issuing explicit directives for us to get down, Dunis seems to be dancing like somebody’s watching.
But on the late-game electro-disco workout “New Grrrls”, Dunis fully acclimatizes to her new home in spotlight, and opens up to convey something more resonant than the simple, nondescript sloganeering proffered throughout much of Cosmic Logic. On the surface, the song is a roll call of trailblazing female heroes—from Kim Gordon and Yoko Ono to black-power activist Angela Davis and sex educator Betty Dodson—that feels like a shout-out to another song that was itself a series of shout-outs. But it’s a necessary update, wherein Dunis tries to reconcile her radicalized riot grrl past with her seemingly more prosaic present as a parent, and finds the two are fuelled by the same ire: “Can’t stop to be just a mom/ The choice to stay at home is gone/ Worker, lover, mother, wife/ Gotta do it all in this life.” And with that line, this album’s equilibrium-upsetting aural eclecticism comes into sharp focus: even if you’re not a working mom trying to function on four hours of sleep per night, the buzzing busyness and hallucinatory disorientation of Cosmic Logic are liable to make you feel like one.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1s1ufXr