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Music Review: Pretty Lights – ‘A Color Map of the Sun (Remixes)’

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In the current days of DJs born from Garage Band, iPhone apps and MacBook-powered parties, there is more pressure than ever to prove you have skill and the ear to create something more than a mashup of random tracks with equal beat signatures. Just like filling in a color-by-number painting doesn’t make you an artist, squashing techno loops together and slapping a dubstep drop on it in the middle doesn’t make you a DJ. Those who push themselves out of the glut of emerging EDM (Electronic Dance Music) artists have already accomplished something special by rising above the noise on dance floors and rave parties across the nation.

A-Color-Map-of-the-Sun-Remixes-CoverA Color Map of the Sun (Remixes) by Pretty Lights (born Derek Vincent Smith) is a bass-driven twist on his own album released earlier this year. Why let other people reimagine your songs when you can do it perfectly well yourself and get a whole new album out of it? Sixteen tracks of electronic wonderment laced with gritty bass lines, trippy effects and rhythms are sure to delight his fans.

I first came across Pretty Lights when he participated in the Re:Generation Music Project. He was paired with LeAnn Rimes and Dr. Ralph Stanley in an effort to mix genres and come up with something unique and special. Out of everyone involved in the project, Pretty Lights got the shortest end of the stick because Stanley was an old school country legend and really had little time or patience for this young whipper-snapper of a techno producer. In the end, the song Pretty Lights created was still intriguing and hypnotic, but I was more impressed with his ability to work in less than the best of circumstances.

In this remix project of his own works, he brings a number of different flavors to the forefront. The album is at times gritty, atmospheric and driven. There’s a little bit of everything for the casual EDM listener.

There are some standout tracks that deserve special mention. “Around the Block (featuring Talib Kweli)” (Datsik Remix) opens the album strong and is easily the one true single of the record. It has a DJ Shadow flavor with Skrillex spices and a sprinkle of old school Crystal Method. I can imagine the light grid for this song during a concert being incredibly epic. The hook “Right now is the best moment you’ve ever known” also plays heavily to the upbeat, positive ecstasy of the techno dance crowd.

“Where I’m Trying to Go (Marvel Years Remix)” comes across like a hero’s march; it’s theme music for the baddest dude in town. If this is on your headphones while walking down the street, it’s pretty much impossible not to feel like a badass. “One Day They’ll Know (Break Science Remix)” is a softer, hypnotic track. You could imagine the crowd swaying back and forth like a neon sea, eyes closed and lost in their own shared experience. Lastly, “Go Down Sunshine (12th Planet Remix)” is another classic concert opener with a long lead-in followed by a massive dubstep drop. It’s dark, gritty, has teeth and moves like a musical battle between good and evil (and surprisingly, evil wins).

The rest of the album is decent, while only one track stood out as a lesser entry. “Prophet (Culprate Remix)” takes odd musical turns and he tries to tie them together, but it feels broken and strange for the sake of it instead of following a laid out theme.

Overall, A Color Map of the Sun (Remixes) can reach into party locales and raise roofs, but Pretty Lights shows skill in the solitary experiences as well. It is a crowd pleaser while also being a highly personal trip.

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About Luke Goldstein

A writer, movie junkie and political nerd. Basically anything that tells a good story is enthralling to me.