This was written by guest writer Tommy Maroon.
“This ‘album’ is a multi-medium map of my mind and myself. It is personal and honest and I put everything into it. I have stayed on the path of being a completely independent musician and with the help of every supporter and friend, we have transformed a simple idea into a movement, a cultural beacon of light.” – Derek Vincent Smith
A Color Map of the Sun, the new album from Pretty Lights which dropped July 2nd, has not sent ripples but shockwaves throughout the EDM scene. First and foremost, Derek Vincent Smith, the man behind Pretty Lights, is a producer, not a DJ. What’s the difference? A producer is an artist who performs his/her own unique songs while a DJ mixes/plays recorded music. There is a certain stereotypical criticism for electronic music – oftentimes people bash the genre by claiming it’s not authentic because of its use of sampling. Meaning, electronic artists aren’t original because they are sampling other people’s work and using it in their own unique way. With that said, over the past two years Smith decided to change the way he went about creating his music. Instead of rigorously digging through record shops to find the right sound he wanted to sample, he decided to create his own sounds and press his own vinyl to sample from.
Over a year-long span he paired up with an large eclectic group of musicians from Brooklyn and New Orleans – from blues singers to rappers, brass instruments to nearly any musical instrument you can think of, working with each artist to create his vision of his new record A Color Map of the Sun. After the recording process was over, the album was only halfway completed. Smith then had to go in and find a way to render his own vinyl samples and transform it into the PL sound we all know and love.
Smith then created another unique element on this record. Instead of creating the synth, bass and electronic aspects of his music through a quick computer digital interface, he used this 40-year-old technologically massive analog soundboard that he tweaked and played with to find the exact sound he wanted. After two full years of learning and creating his album in this new style, he ended up with A Color Map of the Sun.
The new 13-track record has a dreamy, dark tone present throughout the album. Pretty Lights takes you through songs like “So Bright,” a gloomy beautiful brass banger featuring bars from a upcoming talented rapper named Eligh and “Lets Get Busy,” another heavy song with a wonderful fusion of piano and electric guitar riffs to tracks like “Yellow Bird,” a vibrant, slow, beautifully organic-sounding melodic tune and his summer single “Around the Block,” a feel-good summer hip-hop jam. Smith notes, “It’s all about slowing down and enjoying the best moments in life.” The track features the fresh MC Talib Kweli as well as soulful backup singers. He even released three bonus tracks on the deluxe version of the album, “All I’ve Ever Known” being one of them. With a forceful crunchy analog synth backed by a soulful blues singer track, it adds a complete diversity of song styles throughout the record.
One of the most amazing things about Derek Smith and how he works as an artist is all of his albums, including A Color Map of the Sun, are free to download on his website prettylightsmusic.com. Although you can buy CDs and Vinyl of the new album, Smith believes all music should be free to own and listen to.