Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Album Review: Pretty Lights - Passing By Behind Your Eyes

My apologies to Adam and Meg for the several month hiatus. Released on October 6th on their own Passing By Behind Your Eyes, is Pretty Lights' third and, in my opinion, best album to date. The album features just 13 tracks as opposed to the 26 featured on their previous album, Filling Up The City Skies. Commenting on this in an interview on Boulder Colorado's 95.3 FM Green Light Radio, Pretty Light's Own Derek Vincent Smith stated that in spite of their trend of releasing all of their albums on their own at no cost (unless you feel like making a donation) he felt that the standard length allowed by CDs was more than adequate for the listening experience he wanted to provide with this newest release. And oh, does it provide.

Pretty Lights is known for blending Hard Hitting Electro beats seamlessly with a multitude of musical genres. Using Ableton, his Akai MPD24 and his trusty Monome, Derek Vincent Smith has infused Electro with Hip Hop, Jazz, Blues and Soul, to name a few, in a way that is not often seen, but greatly appreciated. Pretty Lights do not simply Mash-Up older records with a four on the floor beat, but rather intertwine wonderful compositions with intricate, non repetitive, and often live (Pretty Lights tours with Drummer Cory Eberhard) beats to create something more than just silly dance music for the MDMA fueled Disco Nation of today, but rather something newer and more organic. What results is something more akin to artists like Bonobo or Quantic, who often use full live bands in their compositions.

Where the Passing By Behind Your Eyes surpasses its predecessors is in its focus, rather than breadth. In the past, their albums have showed a range of composition from fast paced hard hitting dance tracks, to mellow, chill out tunes, almost an exposé of what they are capable of. In this case, the intention is clear: Pretty Lights wants you to fucking rage. While the musical scope of previous albums is present, it is so in the songs themselves, leaving the general feel of the album as a whole undisturbed. They want you to dance, they want you to throw your hands in the air, the want to rock your foundations, then they give you a moment to breathe, and they want you to do it all over again. The glitch-hop style that is synonymous with some performance artists like MEGASOID and Glitch Mob comes to mind, though Pretty Lights' sound is considerably more polished and refined. Tracks like Fly Away Another Day, Let Em Know Its Time To Go, and Keep Em Bouncin really exemplify this newly refined, heavy hitting, polished glitch sound that resonates throughout the album, even in some of the slower songs. All in all I think Pretty Lights has gotten the message, all of his music has been great, but the people want to dance. Keep it coming!

Pretty Lights is currently touring nationally, and will be in New York City at the Fillmore at Irving Plaza next Thursday, November 19th. His newest album, and all others are available for free at

Monday, August 31, 2009

Artist Preview: $ubPRIME

Three years ago, my good friend Adam and I travelled to Burlington, VT in the dead of winter following our favorite band at the time, The New Deal, to Higher Ground. After their high energy set, and the festivities that followed, we were treated to some rousing original beats by many of Adam's friends from CT. Most notably, for me, was Matt Gutt, who shortly after starting up his laptop and hitting a few buttons on his MPC, had several people asking through the night, "Is that Bassnectar?"

Comparisons aside, Matt Gutt, now $ubPRIME has come into a good sound of his own. According to his MySpace Page , Gutt says he, " currently finishing up a live remix PA and looking for gigs in the greater Burlington, Vermont area starting at the end of August." Definitely looking forward to that.
Check him out!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Camp Bisco 8 Review: Pretty Lights

Well another Camp Bisco has come and gone, so I will spend the next few days recapping some of my favorite acts from the 3-day festivus. First up: Pretty Lights.

For me, Pretty Lights epitomizes the spirit of Camp Bisco; not so much in what goes into their music, but what comes out of it. To some, it may be easy to say that musical acts at Camp fall into 3 categories: Live Jam Bands, DJs, and Hip Hop. While Derek Smith, the remaining original member of the two man group, has stated that his production technique relies heavily on software and laptops, and that he has never touched a turntable, his collaboration since 2007 with drummer Cory Eberhard signals that Pretty Light's style is more of a mix between the first and second Camp 'categories.' While the resultig grooves sound similar to many of the live acts at Camp Bisco, like STS9 and Lotus (in past years), the Hip Hop influence is also evident. So while the performance is a blend of live drumming and use of software and the monome, the result is a blend of many of the musical styles that I saw at CB8.

Pretty Light's two most recent albums are available free for download here, so check it out if you want some good listening.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Camp Bisco

If you don't already know about this, you should.

Camp Bisco is the only annual Music Festival devoted primarily to live electronic/dance music. Past lineups have included well known acts such as Snoop Dogg, Umphrey's McGee, Lyrics Born, Brazilian Girls, Infected Mushroom, and lots and lots of glowsticks.

Founded by the Disco Biscuits, who do a great job of bringing together many different acts within this expansive genre, the festival has been noted mostly for its size, which had remained only several thousand people since its inception. And it is in part because of the small size of this festival, that you don't see too many recurrent acts outside of the few 'regulars' (The Disco Biscuits, STS9, etc). This means that the guys in charge save a few slots for the better known artists (this year Nas & Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley), and pack the rest of the slots with up-and-coming acts.

This year it seems to be moving away from the livetronica trend of just two years ago, and more towards a plethora of djs and hip-hop artists. My favorite memories of music festivals are checking out bands I'd never heard before, and falling in love. I expect to do this multiple times two weeks from now, and I hope you'll join me in at the Hell's Angel's Indian Point Country Club in Mariaville, NY on July 16th through the 18th.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Concert Preview: Conspirator @ Highline Ballroom 6/19/09

In the summer of 2007, one of my favorite live bands, the New Deal, was on a break while their bassist pursued an alternative music project. During this time they put on a collaborative effort with a number of other known names throughout the jam music scene. This included members of Sound Tribe Sector 9, the Disco Biscuits, and Medeski, Martin & Wood to name a few. When I saw them with my brother at the Highline Ballroom they performed with Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner (the bassist and keyboard player from the Disco Biscuits) and it was a great time. The energy of Darren Shearer (Percussion) and Jamie Shields (Keyboard) melded seamlessly with the trance infused style of Marc and Aron.

While the New Deal is since reunited and currently touring Japan, the second half of this funky quartet performance is now touring the country under the name ‘Conspirator’, moving away from the sing-along style of their regular group, the Disco Biscuits, and more into the realm of what I enjoy, instrumentals. Joining them will be one of the best personalities in this genre of music today, David ‘Murph’ Murphy of Sound Tribe Sector 9, as well as the brilliant percussionist Lane Shaw of Pnuma Trio. I’m excited to see what having two bassists will do to this collaboration, though I imagine a lot of analog pads will be involved. Should be a great time, so if you’re in town, come check it out at the Highline Ballroom at 431 W. 16th Street between 9th and 10th Ave at 11:30PM.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New STS9 Remixes

An amazing remix of my favorite Soundtribe song from the most recent album, "Peaceblaster." Enjoy "Shock Doctrine (ESKMO Remix):

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Visual Guide to Electronic Music

Thanks to JH for this one: Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music is a great website explaining the evolution and origins of the many genres of dance music. It has some great visual diagrams mapping out the history of all kinds of dance music, with many audio samples for each.

I'm still not sure exactly who Ishkur is, but his intentions are pretty clear:

"To try and pinpoint the exact origins of electronic music, you first have to look at how it's made. Because as amazing as it sounds, electronic instruments did not always exist. The vast majority of them are barely more than 20 years old. And it's not like you can just pick up a sampler, synth and drum machine and jam away. Unlike conventional music, electronic music isn't played, per se. It is PROGRAMMED. So any study of the history of electronic music is really a study of its programmers--that is, the people who make the machines that make the sounds that make the music what it is. Without some guy tinkering with diodes and transistors, electronic music is just a fancy, lifeless hunk of junk. Just sitting there. Not doing anything."

Dance to Save the World

A couple of years ago I read about a sustainable dance club in the Netherlands that had installed pressure tiles on the dancefloor to generate electricity from the kinetic energy all the clubbers generated. This in turn greatly reduced the otherwise massive amount of electrical consumption that most dance clubs are notoriously known for. After some stumbling I found the website for the company that develops these dance floors (Sustainable Dance Club).

While dance clubs and their patrons will probably never escape the negative connotations of hedonism that they are unfortunately associated with, it is refreshing to see some thought and innovation go into something other than the art and music. Cities with lots of clubs would be wise to subsidize endeavours like this.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The French Are At It Again

What is it about French culture that inspires so many great dance music acts? Perhaps it was the revolutionary spirit of their forefathers that inspired Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter to break away from the French House-music scene and join forces and introduce the world to Daft Punk in 1995. Perhaps it is the smug contentment of the French with their own cultural achievements that has created so many who have followed in their footsteps (Justice, Busy P, Mr. Oizo, etc.). Whatever it is, with the recent release of his first full-length album "Away From The Sea", Pierre-Alexandre Busson (aka Yuksek) has perpetuated my belief that all of the best Electro music still comes from Europe.

Yuksek's musical journey began in his youth with daily piano lessons the eventually led him to become a music teacher. Though a self-proclaimed fan of pop for most of his life, Yuksek was inevitably exposed to electronic music. When asked about his initial impression, he remembered thinking that, “compared to pop, it had a freedom about it.” This freedom is apparent in "Away From The Sea" which is varied in its composition. The songs range from the pumping electro beat-riddled tracks like "Break Ya" and "I Like To Play," reminiscint of Boys Noize, to the more poppy "So Far Away," a collaboration with The Bewitched that hints of MGMT. Also notable is the synth-laden "I Could Never Be A Dancer," a powerful instrumental with it's 1980s synth riffs. Other collaborations include "Extraball" with Amanda Blank, "This Is Not Today" with Shit Disco, and my personal favorite, "So Down," featuring Chromeo.

The album is varied but consistent, tried but refreshing. And most importantly a lot of fun to dance to, and definitely worth a listen. Check it out.