With Peaking Lights, married duo Indra Dunis and Aaron Coyes have been in a perpetual state of hoisting their sound out of the mud. Early releases like 2010's Imaginary Falcons' songs were little more than wobbly dub-inspired basslines somehow hanging on to fluttering electronics and layers of hiss. These formless jams gave way to 2011's well-received 936, an album that felt more realized in spite of being filtered through an ever-dreamy fogged lens. The band's sound relied so much on mantra-like repetition and submerged sonics that even their breakthrough moments felt like they could have been excerpts from infinitely looping cosmic jams that existed without end on some unknown plane. All of this leads to Lucifer, their third and most in-focus full-length yet. Recording in an actual studio instead of a makeshift home studio setup, there's an added sonic clarity that's never been there before. More significantly, Peaking Lights have expanded the scope of their sonic alchemy, building on the murky dub and Krautrock influences of their previous work by touching on elements of early analog electronic dance music, sound collage, and even some trip-hop influences. The changes are remarkable and almost entirely successful. The dubbed-out "Cosmic Tides" leans closer to mid-'80s digital dub than the blurred King Tubby-esque experiments that made up earlier efforts. Where Peaking Lights once drifted and ambled through their songs, new definition has sprung up, as with the solid dance groove of "Midnight (In the Valley of Shadows)" and the crystalline pulse of "Lo Hi." The production is clearer without ever losing the group's signature warmth or becoming sharp. With the exception of two shorter interludes bookending the album, Lucifer is made up of six songs, all averaging about six and a half minutes in length. The songs stretch out liberally, oftentimes getting lost in the folds of an endlessly repeated phrase, eventually finding the path again through various waves of delay, analog synth tones, and the occasional flute. Thoroughly rooted in a dubwise framework, Lucifer finds its most exciting moments when it gets into these new grooves, sounding at times like an extended homemade remix of the best Grace Jones 12" or Ash Ra Tempel's watery synths jamming over Cybotron's rudimentary drum machine rhythms. Somewhere between this album and the last, Dunis and Coyes had their first baby, and the newborn's presence as the album's muse is immediately felt. Themes of parental love, sacrifice, and family are present throughout. These tones are felt the strongest on "Beautiful Son," which is also the record's strongest example of the band's growth. Early on in the album and free of percussion, Dunis delivers lyrics of devotion and wonderment over the same kind of blurry-eyed chord changes that made the best work of Massive Attack, Boards of Canada, and even the Orb so captivating. The song feels like watching the sun rise, and sets the tone for an album of gloriously controlled exploration and feelings of organic beauty.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas