Peaking Lights are masters of deception and surprise. Their homespun electronic dub can sound sloppy and slapdash at first, as if cobbled together while thinking of errands to run after a recording session. But then sharp and subtle moments rise up that suggest a much higher form of composure and command.
Cosmic Logic, the first album recorded in the duo’s newly-built studio in Los Angeles, abounds in these moments. “Infinite Trips” opens with a rush of drums that sound lifted from an old cassette tape, with slathered-on layers of reverb-drenched guitar and drizzling synthesizer tones, while Indra Dunis sings in her welcoming, guileless voice. The aesthetic is definitely a step up from the more lo-fi spirit of Peaking Lights’ past, but there’s an appealing casualness at play, as if the state of being entranced in the recording of it remains more important to the musicians than sweating the wrong kind of details.
The spirit carries through a collection of songs that traverse the sounds of digital dancehall, Krautrock, the B-52s, Jean-Michel Jarre and, most intriguingly, the early-’80s work of Greg Hawkes, an original member of the Cars who veered off early toward more cosmic synth-pop climes. It’s a distinguished and dynamic list of forebears, and Peaking Lights conjure it with a deceptive degree of smarts and sophistication. For every sign of seeming amateurishness, there’s a moment of wowing dexterity (see the way “Dreamquest” swerves around the 1:25 mark) that serves as evidence of a firm hand at the controls.