"A Color Map of the Sun" review: Pretty Lights leaves you wondering why - Reverb

Album review: Pretty Lights, “A Color Map of the Sun”

Album review: Pretty Lights, "A Color Map of the Sun."

Album review: Pretty Lights, “A Color Map of the Sun.”

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.

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  • Trev

    Couldn’t agree more, the light, stoner-y jams are pretty damn enjoyable. The ones with the farting synth and dubstep sounds take me out of it.

  • Anything goes

    I think Derek did superb job on those recording sessions, cutting breaks and musically (composition) it is great, sound production / quality is mindblowing. I guess we were all expecting sort of “Endtroducing 2″ with a harsh/dubstep accents, which I don’t mind, because he is pretty good in it. The problem is: drums – boring, simple, quite often really too heavy, same (almost) snares across many tracks, … square, mechanic, kills a lot of great stuff happening in the background … makes it sound 2D. Yes, sometimes they are very “rich”, but it feels like listening to Amon Tobin. Overall, 7.5/10 (0.5 goes for beautiful 2LP cover art, worth buing just to hold it in hands.

  • Coles

    Coming from a long-time PL fan, I am somewhat let down by A Color Map of the Sun. There is no denying Smith’s incredible ability to compile sounds from every part of the musical spectrum into a novel blend of harmony, but I believe his quest to develop something so unique has distracted him from creating the type of jams that have gotten him this far. I miss his older, more upbeat tracks that make you just want to jump up off your feet. Now I feel like I am drowning in the mellow, yet repetitious tracks that make up this album. I do look forward to delving deeper into the album, but as of right now, it seems way too congested to be able to sit back and enjoy.

  • Petr

    As a fan of PL, this album is disappointing. Usually, each of PL’s tracks on an album offer a different vibe and his attempt at being unusual by making all of the tracks on this album have the same vibe, makes it fall flat. It feels like 2 or 3 PL songs stretched out into an album making majority of the music only good for offering background noise to a sad and lonely trip.

  • Oxy

    I agree that some of the tracks are a bit too repetitive but I really enjoyed my first listen to the album. Just lie back and float to the music

  • Mike

    I’ve listened to the album about 5 – 7 times all the way through. Its gotten better each time. I’ve found that I hear so many new layers, and to understand that he created all of these layers as a composer, writer, artist, and producer, only makes it more amazing. Trust me keep listening and like one of the last reviewers said…float.

    To the Reviewer above who said, “Pretty Lights feels bent on showing off the producer’s prowess with electronics more than anything else.”

    You don’t get and you probably will never get it. An artist can find themselves anywhere in the process from inception to final cut. Derek found himself at every stage in this album and in case you haven’t noticed…production is his mastery. Relax and realize that music isn’t just an instrument any more. The devices used in production are a part of the music. Love ya bro, but please stick to that old shit on your shelf.

  • Forbidden Fruit

    Highlights for me:

    Color of My Soul
    So Bright
    Always All Ways

    I dig the “Heart-Soul-Flavor” genre Pretty Lights has created for himself. His sound has all the soul that’s missing from so many electronic/dubstep acts. Just the right amount of guest artists to keep things interesting without selling out or losing his vision.

    Oh, and Color Map of the Sun > Random Access Memories

    There, I said it.

  • Ty

    This one isn’t doing it for me. My favorite track of PL’s is Keep Em Bouncing. He hasn’t quite kept the tracks up to that since then. I was hoping he’d make some new sounds with great melodies in only the way PL can but he went for a totally different thing which is rather dull and boring. All of these tracks sound the same and lack originality. I’m disappointed.

  • E The B

    i think that u are completely wrong and extremely jealous that you didnt make this album as dope as it is.

  • Lily

    I agree! I can’t wait to see Michal Menert at the Arise music festival this august, gonna be amazing!