On Soundcloud, Pretty Lights’ Derek Vincent Smith calls his latest album a “multi-medium map of my mind and self.” It’s a description that makes “A Color Map of the Sun” sound like some kind of dream therapy rather than an album. And a dream is really the closest analogy to describe the album — a collage of sounds that create an overall experience without articulating any specific information or purpose.
With any intention aside, each of these tracks showcase Smith’s prowess as a technician. He layers samples, vinyl-sounding vocals and live instrumentation to create a sometimes frenzied and sometimes relaxing atmospheres into consistently hazy textures.
He’s at his best when he focuses on the softer side of the electronic spectrum on meditations such as “Yellow Bird” and “Press Pause.” On these tracks he strays closer to the stoner experimental electronic jams of Flying Lotus, but without the rhythmic or harmonic complexity. It’s the harsher, more macho sounds akin to traditional dubstep where he loses his auditory depth. The worst case is on “Let’s Get Busy,” a song that abandons the light and fleeting for some of the more obvious dubstep crunch.
On “Around the Block,” the most enjoyable of the heavier tracks on “A Color Map of the Sun,” rapper Talib Kweli’s voice and flow mesh well with a jazzy, hip-hop beat.
While a pleasurable listen, “A Color Map of the Sun” more than anything leaves you wondering what the “why” is behind this album. Like many of the jam musicians who act as Smith’s electronic and nonelectronic forebears, Pretty Lights feels bent on showing off the producer’s prowess with electronics more than anything else.