Nostalgia is a deadly thing. It wraps itself around the minds of the many, making them reminisce about things that never really existed, allowing them to reimagine the world to suit their ideology. This regularly happens within the realm of political debate, but if you look into all walks of life nostalgia can be seen strangling progress.
Unsurprisingly, the world of music has also become increasingly involved in the trading of nostalgia. You've got reissues of reissues of reissues of B-side albums coming out every single day, and yesterday’s dinosaurs talking about 'going back to their roots' on their latest dadrock opus. It’s not a very fun landscape to exist in, I’m sure you’ll all agree.
Wisconsin based wife and husband duo Peaking Lights have made a career out of pushing the proverbial envelope. From 936’s spaceman dub to 2014’s more synth leaning, Cosmic Logic the band
have never been afraid to experiment with heavy heavy sounds. This makes The Fifth State Of Consciousness all the more surreal. The album is almost a homage to the group’s past, rather than a bold leap into the unknown.
Opener 'Dreaming Outside' is some sort of time warp back to a fake Eighties. One with less Ronald Reagan and more 'Hong Kong Garden'-esque glockenspiel. Which, I’m sure everyone can agree, is a much better Eighties than the real Eighties. Or so I’ve heard. The track could have slipped right off the back of Cosmic Logic, what with all it’s fun carefree rhythms and serious synth leanings.
Strangely, this is the sole excursion into synth pop territory. Before you know it the group have taken us back to their early days. Lead single 'Everytime I See the Light' Is pretty much everything you’d expect from a Peaking Lights track. There’s African rhythms, space age synthesizers, post punk guitar riffs and frontwoman Indra Dunis’s luxurious, whispered tones. It’s the sort of track you’d hear in the nightclub of your dreams. A club without all the faffing on with entry fees and dry ice and last year’s tired pop bangers.
Peaking Lights have never been a group that relies on huge choruses. They have always instead been interested in getting underneath the groove, finding that sweet spot in between the beat that allows them to take the listener away from the world. Album centrepiece 'Sweetness Isn’t Far Away' achieves this monumentally. The track grows and grows and grows, starting off as a synth dub ode to breakthrough record Lucifer before slowly morphing into a damn fine hypnotic lullaby.
The familiarity of songs such as 'Eclipse' and 'In My Disguise' isn’t disappointing, it’s comforting. With the inclusion of these tracks the group have decided to give their fans a nice big cuddle and a metaphorical cup of sweeter than sweet tea, served in one of those nice little mugs without the handles. You know the type? The ones that are “on trend” right now, whatever that means. The former track is all about the dub reverberations and radio experimentation, while the later focuses on the groovier side of things.
Somehow, by taking these backwards steps, Peaking Lights have, rather bizarrely, flown forwards, proving in the process that, when handled correctly, nostalgia can be a fine tool. A fine tool indeed.
8Jack Doherty's Score