Peaking Lights + Julia Holter: XOYO, London 6/6/12

This show was only ever going to be one of the most memorable of the summer, a presumption it surely lived up to: two of the most interesting and experimental artists – Californian singer songwriter, Julia Holter and “dub pop psych” husband and wife duo, Peaking Lights, producing a night of awe and amazement.

Having arrived late, due a yet another traffic accident in Dalston, I walked down the stairs at XOYO to witness a sold out crowd transfixed on Julia Holter. As it happens I missed the majority of her set, but 20 minutes I caught were stunning.

Her classical training at CalArts became instantly clear as her tone perfect voice paired with a keyboard, cello and percussion made the dark basement seem a million miles away from the hipster packed Old St above. Each individual song felt like a journey, full of emotion and energy. Later I heard that there had been a few ‘technicals’ with her keyboard, but this hadn’t bothered her. The sound was on point, she looked beautiful and her voice as breathtaking as it sounds on her records. It was a shame that she was prevented from playing her final song, but her set had more than made up for the earlier epic bus diversion.

Before the show I had been curious to how Peaking Lights would perform live, how would the dynamic work between the couple and the crowd? Aaron was totally mesmerising, lost in the sounds of his homemade synth box. Sat directed at Indra, his wife and second member of Peaking Lights, he hardly acknowledged that he was playing to an audience. Indra was the opposite, warm and managing to draw the audience into their dreamy world. They began with a few familiar tracks from 936, their groundbreaking debut album, before taking us on a tour through their new album on, Lucifer, due to be released on 16th June. Lucifer looks to have way more dance/dub vibes than anything on 936, inducing Indra to produce a maraca on multiple occasions. Aaron looks like he’s spent the like time between albums experimenting with this new sound. He released the last in a series of 5 mixtapes marking the run up to the album launch on the day of the XOYO show. While it took me a moment to get my head their new material, I ended up really feeling it, and found myself, like to rest of the crowd, in some kind of head bopping hypnotic trance.

I was slightly disappointed the perfect summer bassy sounds of Hey Sparrow wasn’t their last song. Instead they offered up a choice between Tiger Eyes or a new ‘composition’ – it is fair to say that deep rhythmic bass of Tiger Eyes was a worthy substitute. While I have seen more fun and rowdy gigs recently, this felt like a highly accomplished and engaging show. The AV added to the quirkiness of the affair, with images ranging from a basketball being thrown into a net on loop to the zooming in and out of a lamb’s face being projected up behind the stage. If this is what’s to come I cant wait to hear more of the intriguing and unpredictable Peaking Lights.

Luke Innes