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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review and Download: Pretty Lights' 'Spilling Over Every Side'

Posted By on Tue, Aug 17, 2010 at 10:49 AM

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"I now require an email address to download Pretty Lights music," explains Derek Vincent Smith on the giveaway portion of his website, where most of his recent discography can be yours for the price of an "@" symbol. "I would prefer it be your real email address, but either way, it's all good." This is an insight, probably, into Smith's modus operandi: he knows email is cheaper than talk, but he still wants to bring you the party no matter where you're at.

Those who missed Pretty Lights at Outside Lands this weekend -- myself among them -- shouldn't balk at the opportunity. Smith's sound is huge, propulsive and nasty, his songs methodical and unrelenting; each snare hit is a precisely timed punch-in-the-face sound effect (you know, where someone off-camera whacks a side of beef with a snow shovel).


Of the three free EPs he plans to drop on the world this year, each recorded a few weeks before the release date, March's Making Up A Changing Mind was an elaborately sugary confection, with something to accommodate just about everyone. Spilling Over Every Side, out since the end of July, is a stricter kind of party: classic electro low-end thunk, dubstep wobble-skritch, songs that clock in around seven minutes a pop. (Ironically, it's hard to imagine listening to it with many lights on at all.) One wonders where part three will take him, let alone us.

Pretty Lights is less about innovation than about burrowing into grooves forged by Prefuse 73 and Dabrye, to name two. Spilling Over Every Side owes its ear for denatured vocal samples to Rjd2, and its use of old-school rappers as phantom hypemen to Girl Talk. Smith lacks the former's reverence toward his source material and the latter's ADD, but like both of them he enjoys distracting you, mid-odyssey, with a snatch of melody you can't quite place. ("High School Art Class" shares a sample with Blockhead's "Insomniac Olympics," while "Understand Me Now" lifts that eerie twinkle from Atmosphere's "God's Bathroom Floor"; in both cases, I had to pause the Pretty Lights track more than once and sit in monk-like silence until I solved the puzzle.)

The referential in-joke isn't the point, though, nor is making you sweat the pedigree. It's about making the track bounce with whatever's at hand, for whoever is around to get down. For the moment, Smith's marketing model is to ensure you have no excuse not to be around. Consider the party brung.

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Daniel Levin Becker

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