Pretty Lights

Another distinctly different artist in the electronic scene today is Derek Vincent Smith. Performing as Pretty Lights Derek has reached an international audience. Releasing music for free on the internet has allowed for more exposure to his music, and in turn, a committed fan-base eager to reciprocate. Even if you haven’t heard of Pretty Lights, it’s likely you’ve heard another track inspired by his artistry. It’s the winter of 2011, you’re at a respectable social gathering, and you hear a catchy tune with a man yelling about a “good feeling” he’s getting. What you might not know is that Derek had released a track in 2006 with the same two samples that Flo Rida decided to use in his. Do yourself a favor and listen to the original track.

The irony behind this pop music snafu is that Derek considers himself to be primarily a purveyor of hip-hop beats — he classifies his music as “Electro Hip-Hop Soul” — while Flo Rida was a hip-hop artist making a dance hit.

That’s one of the fundamental differences between Derek and other electronic artists. While he acknowledges that his music attempts to inspire “kinetic” movement, as he so aptly puts in a 2013 interview with HOT 97, he is more concerned with imparting a deeper emotional response to his listeners.

His most recent album, A Color Map of the Sun, was released in 2013. Rather than digging through piles of records, and removing small pieces from them for his own pieces, as he had become famous for doing, he decided to take a new approach. He gathered a large group of musicians together, and started down the arduous road of creating his own samples. In interviews he often describes the hilarity of trying to get accomplished musicians to play very simply, and especially getting them to play his way.

With this incredible new production process finished he also ventured to change his live performance. Sick of the status quo of “glorified cheer leading,” as Steve Rennie nicely put it in an interview with Derek on his show Renman Live, Derek formed a live analog band to give concert goers an added thrill, and the sense of immediacy that electronic music so often lacks. The result of this is what they have decided to call “flips.” Derek will often build in a track, and then subsequently fade it out as his band starts picking up the tune and “flipping” it. The band has consisted of Alvin Ford on drums, Chris Karns on turntables, and Borahm Lee and either Brian Coogan or Brandon Butler on keyboard. Below you can find a Youtube list of these flips if you’d like to check them out.

Beat__Freak

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