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SXSW 2012: Peaking Lights illuminates Urban Outfitters party

March 18, 2012 |  7:14 am

Peaking Lights at the Urban Outfitters day party in Austin, Texas
One of the most illuminating, and best sounding, shows of my South by Southwest experience so far was Saturday afternoon's gig by Los Angeles' (by way of Wisconsin) Peaking Lights. The group, comprised of duo of Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis, has been bouncing around Austin over the past few days, and landed in the parking lot of Urban Outfitters to play beneath a crowded tent.

The pair released their full length debut, 936, on Los Angeles-based label Not Not Fun, and have since signed to hot Brooklyn label Mexican Summer, home of Best Coast. They play a strange blend of electronic music and Jamaican dub, with Coyes, who has a wild mishmash of tattoos on his arms, torso and neck, crafting echoey blips and thumps that he fuses with deep reggae bass-lines and Fender guitar tones. He uses cheap equalizers, cassette machines, a mixing board and lots of effects to create a portable, rumbling sound system. You can hear echoes of dub producer Lee "Scratch" Perry's defining production work, and the rhythmic hum of Portishead.

Singer/keyboard player Dunis sang and delivered pretty vocal mantras, more focused on the sound of word repetition than on conveying deliberate meaning. On the transcendent "All the Sun that Shines," she repeated the title words over and over while plunking out a hollow keyboard line to accompany Coyes' Casiotone rhythms. Throughout the 40-minute set Peaking Lights moved from rhythm to rhythm, diving deep into the space within the beats to weave through layers of reverb and echo. It was perhaps the most entrancing afternoon ever spent in an Urban Outfitters parking lot.


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-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Peaking Lights at the Urban Outfitters day party in Austin, Texas as part of the South by Southwest music festival. Credit: Randall Roberts / Los Angeles Times