The psychedelic electronic duo Peaking Lights (made up of partners Aaron Coynes and Indra Dunis) are not in want of motivation – since forming they have produced an album a year, and have had such hard work pay off. Their 2011 release 936 was a breakout success in the LA underground scene, while the follow up Lucifer was a critical darling (as was its dub reworking a year later).
On Cosmic Logic, the duo has decided to mix things up a bit. By their own words, they’ve gone more pop. Gone are the extended, soothing psychedelic lullabies of previous efforts and instead there are sub four minute verse-chorus-verse constructs that unfortunately feel like reigned in shadows of their former efforts. The first half of the album often feels like sketches of songs instead of the finished product. The style, construction, and execution here feels so consistent you could predict the next song before even hearing it. A drum machine, baritone synth keyboards, heavy reverb on the vocals, this is painting-by-numbers – the indie electro edition. Lyrically this half also feels substandard, with ‘Telephone Call’ featuring some particularly corny vocals (the ‘Telephone call from space’ in question needs you to ‘use your heart/not your ears’), while dull ‘Hypnotic Hustle’ sounds like an ode to a screensaver.
This shaky ground is perhaps due to a change in their usual routine. While earlier albums were carved out from live shows to be speedily recorded afterwards (the entirety of Lucifer was recorded in four weeks), a more deliberate, studio-orientated effort was made for this album. They finally seem to get their footing on later tracks, where there is more of an intricacy towards crafting the songs. The lyrical emptiness of the earlier tracks also improves dramatically, and the later track ‘New Grrrls’ is a perfect blend of a funky pop focus and biography of Dunis’s feminist awakening.
It’s a genuine pity that the best of intentions – that is, to not become artistically stagnant – has translated into an album where they seem to only hit their groove in the closing tracks. As such, this is more of an encouraging three star EP that is being weighed down with two star songs as an LP. A disappointment, though fans should nonetheless keep the faith.