In Review: Peaking Lights - E S C A P E

The husband-and-wife duo have never been a band to entertain expectations. Back with their first album in three years on Amsterdam techno label Dekmantel, Peaking Lights add a new chapter to their cosmic catalogue.
Posted: 3 June 2020 Words: Alex Orr

It’s crazy to look at the progression in Peaking Lights’ releases. Beginning with lo-fi bedroom pop sensibilities, the American duo have incorporated an increasingly diverse range of influences throughout their career, including dub, psychedelic, Krautrock and anything else you can think of from the left-field of the music genre spectrum. The husband-and-wife duo are now back with their first album in three years.

E S C A P E is their first release on Amsterdam-based label Dekmantel, a surprise addition to their roster given that the label/festival promoters are synonymous with four-to-the-floor techno artists rather than psychedelic electronica. And the new geographical inspiration rings through the album, with a decidedly stronger dub-focus than previous releases. Retaining their DIY aesthetic, despite the much shinier production values, vocalist Indra Dunis’ trademark husky tones and otherworldly lyrics ensure the duo’s cosmic exploration remains in the proverbial stratosphere. 

Peaking Lights have never been a band to entertain expectations, however; ‘EVP’ and ‘Peace’ wouldn’t be out of place in the right club, driven by their bass-heavy sonic soundscapes and dark-yet-playful melodies. Groove-laden songs like ‘Soft Escape’ are paralleled with the more ethereal and spaced out dub-inspired tracks, ‘Eyes Alive’ is anchored by a simple bassline surrounded with the reverb-laden echoes of dub effects and almost-unintelligible lyrics, whilst ‘Dreams’ is the lightest song on the album, all daydream vibes and sun-soaked synths.

There aren’t any explicitly bad moments on the album, but there are some lulls in direction - ‘Silver Clouds’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘The Caves’ all get a little lost in space, although this is an inevitability on a record where the average song length borders on the five-minute mark. ‘Traffic’, the most drawn out track on E S C A P E, undeniably falls victim to its 7:16 run time. 

Album closer, and standout track ‘Change Always Comes’ creates an atmosphere of trippy ethereality that feels like a logical conclusion to this collection of songs. It’s ironic that the track featuring the most minimalistic production perhaps succeeds the most in encapsulating a production-heavy album, but it provides a sense of optimism to juxtapose the darker tones and themes of songs like opener ‘Dharma’ and the foreboding ‘Innerterrestrial’ - the latter, a closing statement to proudly suggest that whilst the duo have explored (or perhaps escaped) genres beyond their beginnings, the heart of their DIY ethos beats with pride.

E S C A P E is out now on Dekmantel.

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