Dub music has been a favorite among experiment-loving musicians since King Tubby, Errol Thompson and Lee "Scratch" Perry began removing vocals from reggae tracks in the late 1960s. Pretty soon, they found themselves cranking up the bass and drums, adding waves of reverb and peppering the resulting soundscapes with far-out effects like singing birds and crashing thunder.
Madison-based duo Peaking Lights, a collaboration between dub lovers Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis, bring an equally whimsical, left-field approach to music-making with the video for "All The Sun That Shines," a track from their recently released album 936.
The video begins with two tattooed hands rifling through a record bin, then morphs into what looks like a vintage photocopied zine that comes to life onscreen, wiggling and shivering as the camera flashes from one scene to the next. Though modern animation techniques and the latest Photoshop filters are among its tricks, the piece feels like a hidden-away gem from the archives of Andy Warhol or experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage: Sometimes the images take on the quality of Super 8 film, and other times they seem like very unusual ultrasounds.
Meanwhile, the music itself serves as an incantation of sorts, inviting listeners to tune out the noise of the everyday world and tune into memories, associations and the other hazy images that fuel creativity.
This is an especially interesting aesthetic given Peaking Lights' goals for 936, which was recorded as a concept album at Iowa City's Flat Black Studios.
"We wrote half of the songs in the studio and half at home," Coyes explains. "We did our older records ourselves, but then a few of our tape machines broke down, so we were in a pinch to get our record out."
Dunis adds that Peaking Lights were excited about the possibilities of a higher-fidelity sound after experiencing a fantastic sound system at the Kraak Festival in Belgium last spring.
"It was the first time, in this band, that we'd played a really big stage with an excellent sound system, so this was the first time we were really hearing all of our tones while we were playing," she says. "Whoever did the sound did an incredible job. They mixed it in such a way that we were like, 'Oh my god, this is so much fun.' A lot of our music has many layers to it, so you can't hear everything very clearly, but you could hear so much more of it at this show. We wanted to try to capture that on our recording."
After recording the album at Flat Black with their sound-engineer pal Luke Tweedy, another friend -- Amanda Brown of psychedelic dub-meets-drone duo Pocahaunted and the new, dub-inspired project LA Vampires -- contacted them about making a video for "All The Sun That Shines."
Brown asked Coyes and Dunis to shoot some video footage of themselves -- anything they'd like -- and send it to her for editing. The couple used a simple camcorder to record themselves goofing around in their backyard and pretending to play their instruments on their basement couch. Then Brown created some cutout animation and pieced together the final product with her partner, visual artist Ben Sheam.
"It was so fun that the two of us didn't feel like we were making a music video. It was more like making a home movie," Dunis says. "We just shot this random stuff, and they came up with something really awesome."
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