THE FIRST TRACK on Peaking Lights' new album, Cosmic Logic, is called "Infinite Trips," and it retains a little bit of the obfuscating murk that coated the LA electro-dub-pop duo's last two offerings, 2011's 936 and 2012's Lucifer. There's the staticky opening, the dull echo around the beat, the distorted shimmer of a synthesizer. It sounds like the Peaking Lights of the past, but faster paced.
But on the next track, "Telephone Call," the Peaking Lights of the present comes into sharper focus. The beats snap, the synths sound clean and weighty, and Indra Dunis' vocals are front and center. Track three, "Hypnotic Hustle," is an unabashed, undulating electro-pop jam. Suddenly, the smeared, submerged aesthetic of Peaking Lights' back catalog seems ancient.
The band's shift toward sonic clarity is a result of two circumstances: better gear and artistic ambition, says Dunis' husband, Aaron Coyes. After the breakthrough of Lucifer, one of Peaking Lights' record labels, Domino, helped the duo build a home studio. "We'd always used tapes and analog stuff before," Coyes says, "but they got us a [better] computer."
Coyes and Dunis took their time making Cosmic Logic, spending 18 months not only recording—and doing production work for other artists—but also figuring out how to use their new toys in the march toward higher fidelity.
"We'd always kinda hidden... behind delays and effects and stuff like that," Coyes says. "It was like, 'Well, let's just try and get these sounds to where we're not necessarily relying on that stuff.'"
That's where the ambition comes in. Coyes says he and Dunis wanted to "readjust our brainwaves to do something we hadn't done before," not only for the challenge, but to sate their creative thirst. Fearful of a rut—and of being typecast as lo-fi dub-pop curiosities—the duo produced a record that plainly melds their pop interests with their electronic instincts. The result gleams, and that's exactly the point.
"You can't always just paint the same picture. You can get good at painting the picture, but then eventually people are like, 'Oh, I've seen that before,'" Coyes says. "People are not going to like it anyway, so why not just push it to a different degree? Maybe we're just trying to challenge people, too, and not make it easy."