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Electric Zoo Artist Spotlight: Pretty Lights

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Derek Vincent Smith, the man behind Pretty Lights, has been able to build a successful career with no formal training and a free distribution model. Although he is now a headliner at countless festivals and solo tours, it wasn’t always this way. Smith’s journey began in high school where he used music as a creative outlet. Throughout his journey he played a variety of musical roles including bass guitar player in a garage rock band, lyricist in a hip hop/funk band, beat maker, and electronic music fan. These experiences played a major part in the development of his current sound, which is as diverse as his background.

Pretty Lights – The Time Has Come

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It is easier to stay within the confines of a single genre than to fuse a variety of seemingly divergent sounds, which is what Smith does in his productions and live shows. Pretty Lights’ music is a patchwork quilt of kaleidoscope sounds ranging from glitch-hop, hip-hop, and funk, to soul, dubstep, electronic, and chillwave. If Afrojack can have “Afrojack music” then Pretty Lights can have “Pretty Lights music.” The difference, however, is that there are very few doing what Pretty Lights does — and definitely none who have crossed over into the dance music world.

Pretty Lights – Fill Your Eyes

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Pretty Lights’ most closely related influences include DJ Shadow, J Dilla, and Madlib, but their phenomenal contributions are too hip-hop heavy to be true equivalents. Like his predecessors, Smith’s music is sample based, meaning he pulls snippets of other artist’s music and repurposes them in his own productions. The method is highly controversial, and artists who engage in the practice are sometimes viewed as unimaginative thieves. Pretty Lights productions, however, manage to embody only the best parts of the technique.

Pretty Lights – CountryRoads (Pretty Lights Remix)

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Pretty Lights  – I Can See It In Your Face

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Smith’s sampling style is not simplistic. He doesn’t snatch pieces of songs and replicate them. Instead, he reworks and reconfigures a variety of samples before finally combining seemingly unrelated elements into cohesive tracks. Take for example “Hot Like Sauce,” – one of his most popular productions – which features samples from Aaron Neville, Donny Hathaway, Led Zeppelin, Glasses Malone, and Akon. This ability to create a cohesive collage of divergent sounds is not the mark of an unimaginative thieve but an innovative visionary.

Pretty Lights – Hot Like Sauce

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Pretty Lights’ closing set on night one of Electric Zoo will offer a break from the monotonous drone of Beatport top 10 tracks that will inevitably echo repetitively throughout the festival grounds. For this reason alone we suggest you check him out — but if you need another, the pretty lights behind him are a close second.

 

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