Pretty Lights
A Color Map of The Sun


3.2
good

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
August 7th, 2013 | 35 replies


Release Date: 07/02/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I've got to move, come let me take you on a party ride / And I'll teach you, teach you, teach you, I'll teach you the electric slide

With a process as labored as the one behind Pretty Lights’ latest LP, A Color Map of the Sun, the actual music itself tends to be subsumed by the narrative. For Derek Vincent Smith, who, like many electronic acts of his ilk, has always been more tilted toward ticket sales instead of records, it runs the risk of turning into a gimmick. Smith spent months working with live session musicians to create a live version of the cross-cultural sound collage that makes up his music, a twisty, groove-heavy brand of hip-hop, jazz, and funk, with generous dollops of soul inflected with shards of blues and trip-hop that defies much categorization other than “pretty cool,” especially if you fall under the dorm room stoner or the casual raver that encompass Smith’s key demographic. He then pressed the results (recorded, per Hipster Law, on pre-1970s analog equipment) onto vinyl and sampled the material into his own songs using modular synthesis. It’s a novel idea, and, although seemingly redundant, turned out reasonably well: A Color Map of the Sun, Pretty Lights’ 4th proper record, sounds like a Pretty Lights album, largely agreeable to fans and newcomers. The problem is that those actual live recordings, collected here as a second disc, are immeasurably more rewarding and engaging an experience than the finished product.

That this is so isn’t necessarily a critique of Smith – after all, these are his compositions, whether recorded live or chopped and reshuffled into his familiar brand of laidback dubstep. Pretty Lights’ ascension in the dubstep and festival scenes has taken an increasingly populist bent in recent years, reveling in neo-soul and blissed-out rhythms that often disguise a thick undercurrent of bass and the occasional skronk of brostep, breaking through the marijuana haze and epileptic lights of his live show to get at the MDMA percolating through the audience’s veins. The combination is loud and sweaty but still overwhelmingly chill, content to light up rather than mosh. It’s an enjoyable recipe that has nevertheless become something of a formula, and A Color Map of the Sun does little to veer off Smith’s established road. The tempo is generally relaxed – even when Talib Kweli shows up to inject some vigor into “Around the Block,” it’s in service of a languid beat, one that stops and starts with appropriate amounts of feet-shuffling glitch and bass hiccups. Things are cool, calm, and collected; traits that surely endear Smith to his growing legion of fans and work well for a summer party, but ones that recreate the static hiss Smith is no doubt so fond of, fading in the background rather than grabbing and taking you along.

It’s too easy to get lost in A Color Map of the Sun, which, of course, might be just what a Pretty Lights fan is looking for. Yet it’s those live recordings that represent the missed opportunity the first half of the record distorts into something familiar and easy. The grooves seem realer, more lived in. While it would be an insult to Smith to say that his production techniques degraded the originals, there’s something to be said for the breezy beauty of the live recordings, an effortless aesthetic that, while not entirely absent in Smith’s translations, gets somewhat lost in the shuffle. Disc one is Pretty Lights, all these crinkled and burnished sounds of the past composed into a convenient pill of electro and swelling bass womps that goes down smooth, preferably with Dixie cups of Monster Energy Drink, a pair of Vans and glow sticks. Disc two is Derek Vincent Smith, a producer with a talent and an appreciation of the history under those worn-out vinyl grooves that belies many of his contemporaries. For fans of Pretty Lights, A Color Map of the Sun is an acceptable recreation of his wild live show, if nothing else. For those looking to get into the real contradiction of Smith, the album makes for a wonderful primer.



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user ratings (68)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


31162 Comments


For Derek Vincent Smith, who, like most electronic acts, has always been more tilted toward ticket sales instead of records, it runs the risk of turning into a gimmick.


I get what you're implying here, or more specifically what you're referencing, but I kinda think there should be a direct reference to it

Digging: LV and Joshua Idehen - Islands

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


10418 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

i wasn't specifically referencing anything re gimmickry? or are you talking about the sales thing

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


31162 Comments


The sales part. I figured you were referencing more the edm side of things - electronic music becoming popular again, and guys like Skrillex and such filling up stadiums rather than just bars - than electronic music as a whole. I can't agree with that if you are

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


10418 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

i was just referring that someone like Pretty Lights and a lot of others in the same circle derive more income from touring
than they do record sales

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


31162 Comments


I just feel like there should be a reference specifically to "that same circle" rather than just most electronic musicians in general

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


10418 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

for you, anything

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


31162 Comments


Love you too baby

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
August 7th 2013


23819 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

klap klap

ps [sad face]

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


10418 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

what'd you think of this aids? this probs started as a 4 for me but grew off me

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
August 7th 2013


23819 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

just downloaded yesterday. haven't listened yet I just hope I like it more than you. I generally like this guy's stuff a lot more than other people though, so we'll see.

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


10418 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

i like him a lot and like i said this was a 4 initially. just sort of faded for me

EaglesBecomeVultures
August 7th 2013


5236 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

3.2 is correct, awesome read as always mah dude

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


10198 Comments


"especially if you fall under the dorm room stoner or the casual raver that encompass Smith’s key demographic."

Nope, never.

Good work at something outside the usual, man. I didn't care for this much right from the first spin, gotta say.

Digging: The Contortionist - Language

greg84
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


7391 Comments


It sounds good. Have no idea if it'll make a lasting impression on me though. Swell review.

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


10198 Comments


It would be your favorite record, Greg.

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


10418 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

outside the usual omaha?? you do not know me very well : )

Gyromania
August 7th 2013


15706 Comments


pretty lights indeed

Scoot
August 7th 2013


17752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lots of good stuff on here

Fieryfenderz
August 7th 2013


1441 Comments


"For Derek Vincent Smith, who, like most electronic acts, has always been more tilted toward ticket sales instead of records, it runs the risk of turning into a gimmick."

I don't see this as a negative. I mean hell, he has all his albums up for free on his site.

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2013


10418 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

i'm not talking about the sales as a gimmick - i'm talking about the whole creative process behind this album could be perceived as sort of gimmicky



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