Derek Vincent Smith has left fans with no shortage of news in 2017. Over the past several months, Pretty Lights has announced such momentous events as his Puerto Rican “Island of Light” festival, and weekend concert series at The Gorge and Red Rocks. Alongside his new live developments, Smith has also satiated fans on the musical front by releasing two large drives of unreleased live flips from his 2016 Episodic Festival tour.
However, from a studio release standpoint, Pretty Lights has remained silent for quite some time. In December, the artist broke news of a forthcoming audiovisual album, which would mark his first release since his single, “Only Yesterday,” in March of 2016. As the year meets its halfway point, the anticipated LP has yet to arrive, but that may soon change.
In the early hours of Sunday, May 28, Pretty Lights performed a three-hour set at Illinois’ Summer Camp Music Festival, Pretty Lights debuted a new single, reportedly titled “The Sun Spreads in Our Minds.” Captured on video by Press Pause Films, the unreleased track takes on the essence of the artist’s 2013 album, A Color Map of the Sun. Beginning on a sedate note before progressing into a formidable, glitch-laden crescendo, “The Sun Spreads in Our Minds” simultaneously induces nostalgia among Pretty Lights fans while instilling hope for his next album’s imminence.
Social media is buzzing right now as it seems Derek Vincent Smith, better known by his stage name Pretty Lights has caused his fans to absolutely break the internet with a combination of excitement, disbelief, and gratitude. Two days ago, Smith and his team masterminded one of the best fan outreach initiatives that the electronic dance music
When Pretty Lights surprised his loyal family following with USBs of new live recordings recently, the analog sound-sculptor also announced two more destination events as part of the Episodic Festival Tour. Now the producer born Derek Vincent Smith unveiled an impressive line-up of supporting talent for his return to Denver and Chicago in August.
On August 11, Pretty Lights will begin a two night run with his live band at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO with special guests G Jones, Manic Focus, SoDown and Daily Bread. The next weekend, Pretty Lights and his band will head to Chicago’s Northerly Island with special guests The Floozies, Big Wild, and The Soul Rebels, amongst other acts.
These two-day experiences make for a busy month for Pretty Lights, as he is kicking off the August at the Gorge Amphitheater for Episode 06 of the Episodic Tour, featuring the likes of Atmosphere, STS9, Tipper, Lettuce, Cherub, and many more.
Two-Day general admission tickets, VIP, and Red Rocks travel packages are available right now via Pretty Lights’ direct-to-fan pre-sale. Tickets will go on sale to the public on May 19th at 10am MT
According to a report by Yelawolf’s DJ, Chris Karns, found on The Source, Derek “Pretty Lights” Smith and iconic hip hop producer RickRubin have begun collaborative work on Pretty Lights’ upcoming album. Along with the help of Karns himself, who previously worked with Pretty Lights in 2014 at Snowball Festival in Denver, the two spent multiple days inside Rubin’s legendary Shangri La Studios, where Pretty Lights “literally had a semi-truck outside of the studio tons of vintage and rare gear from all over the world.”
Karns said that their initial meeting was not planned, but happened by accident while Pretty Lights was eating breakfast.
“When Derek dropped his album Color Map of the Sun, and was even nominated for a Grammy, and at some point Rick had already become a fan of his work… according to him (Pretty Lights), he was sitting somewhere eating some pancakes and Rick sat down, and didn’t know what to say to him.”
For five days, Karns said Pretty Lights acted as a director from the booth while telling the musicians inside the studio which instruments to play. The result of the recording sessions, he said, is “incredible.”
“He (Pretty Lights) likes to take risks, he’s the type of person to just go for it. He’s very ambitious, he’ll bite off more than you think he can chew, and right when you think he can’t swallow it, he gets it done. He’s a total genius and renaissance man.”
As the year comes to a close, we’re forced to look to the year ahead. Though 2016 has had its fair share of trials and tribulations, as a year for music creation, it’s been great. 2017 looks to keep up the pace with more new releases from our favorite artists including some we never thought we’d hear from again.
Avicii retired from touring early this year, but he made sure to be clear with his words: he’s not done making music. Touring is draining emotionally and physically, but music creation is incredibly good for the soul and mind, and we couldn’t imagine him giving that up. Last week, Avicii broke news that he was leaving long-time manager Ash Pournouri, as well as crafting an album set for 2017 release. We can’t wait to hear it.
The M Machine
The M Machine are some of the most talented creatives in dance music. Beyond releasing EPs, they imagine entire worlds for their music to exist in and share that lore with fans. Metropolis, as a whole, is one of the best EP projects in EDM, in our opinion. And the wait for a debut album has been a long time coming, but The M Machine will finally be releasing Glare in 2017. The album will not resemble Metropolis or Just Like, but will exist in its own space.
Pretty Lights hasn’t released an album since 2013’s A Color Map of the Sun, so it’s about time we get something new from the producer. Between his own set of personal problems and a shifting landscape in electronic music, four years has hopefully given him a fair amount of perspective and life events to draw inspiration from.
Bonobo will release Migration, after four years since his previous album (which was his first ever to get on the charts). Since 2013, Bonobo has risen in notoriety and respect from the industry, even more so than he previously was. With this new album, like Tycho’s this year, Bonobo should be able to reach an entirely new echelon of fans.
Danger made waves this year as an opening act for Porter Robinson & Madeon’s joint tour, but he’s been making weird, eclectic music for more than a decade. His strange and always post-modern methods of production have kept us on our toes for quite some time, and finally we’ll have a complete work from the French mystery artist.
After Jamie xx’s solo jaunt in 2015 with a best-selling album, In Colour, the full xx trio are poised to return with a new album that is sure to make its mark on alternative and dance music alike. After their first two albums, we can expect more chill and introspective music to fall in love with. Best of all, it’s coming out in January so we don’t even have to wait that long.
Fans have been waiting for a debut album from Grabbitz since it was announced almost a year ago. For various reasons, the release has been pushed back further and further, but finally next year we can expect it to come out. After a fortunate feature on deadmau5′ new album, Grabbitz’ name is more noticeable than ever, so we can hope that his album performs well.
Same as Grabbitz, we’ve been waiting for the Oliver album forever. With their awesome disco-influenced electro and progressive house tunes, they’ve established a strong foothold in the industry with their style. With a shift toward songwriting and (slightly) away from club bangers, a full Oliver album is sure to keep people’s attention all year long.
Camo & Krooked
For this Austrian duo, drum & bass is a way of life. Coming as their fourth studio album, Mosaic looks to push the envelope even further than their last album, Zeitgeist. For after two intensely incredible, pure DnB albums, Zeitgeist forged its own path and alienated a lot of fans. However after time, many have come to appreciate the production and vision of the two artists and have decided they want more.
If you weren’t aware, Major Lazer have been planning a follow up to their hit 2015 album Peace Is The Mission entitled Music Is The Weapon. The album was supposed to come out this year, but with Diplo and Major Lazer’s busy touring schedule, it was likely best to push it back a bit. Nevertheless, we’re looking forward to hearing new tracks like their collab with Bad Royale, and of course the PARTYNEXTDOOR and Nicki Minaj collab, as well.
According to a recent interview with Denver Post, Pretty Lights has some big plans for the coming year, and possibly as soon as April 20th.
“I’m trying to make a film and a record that’s really about the connection of people — the amazing things that happen between people on the same frequency. It will be an episodic thing that makes a full piece. Every song has an episode.”
The upcoming album has yet to be named, but Derek Smith, AKA Pretty Lights, says the work will tie into the happenings at each date of his Episodic Music Festival. Considering his last album was A Color Map Of The Sun, released in 2013, this is pretty huge news. Fans will also be stoked to know that their attendance and energy at each show will have an impact on Pretty Lights’ songwriting and be featured in the new combination audio/visual project.
“When I was booking that tour, I wanted to call it “The Weekend’s Episodic Festivals.” I didn’t know why I wanted to call it that, but it’s all going together. Every festival, we’d have a film shoot that became the building blocks of these episodic film pieces. It’s pretty (cool).”
In late February of this year, Derek Vincent Smith underwent a musical reawakening of sorts. Following a series of cryptic messages posted to the Pretty Lights social media accounts, Smith announced his Episodic Festival tour — the most recent evolution of the perennially updating Pretty Lights live experience. Though Smith’s success during his 2016 tour has pushed him further into the limelight than he’s been for quite some time, he still has been relatively quiet in the past several years, granting few media appearances and approaching the fourth year of a hiatus from releasing original music (excepting his single “Only Yesterday,” from March 2016).
In a rare interview with Denver Post, however Smith has divulged that his musical moratorium is coming to an end. Apparently in 2017, Pretty Lights will release his first album since 2013’s A Color Map of the Sun:
” I’m really excited about what I’m working on. I’ve got an album that’s almost ready. It’s slated for an early 2017 release. It’s not just a music record — I’m actually making a film with it, as well.”
The post noted that the new album/film hybrid may be released on April 20 of next year. The notion of a mixed audio/visual project from Pretty Lights is innately scintillating given his track record for appealing to both sensibilities in innovative ways. In extrapolating upon how he plans to meld the two visions for his forthcoming project, Smith relates his goal to his Episodic Festival tour:
“I’m trying to make a film and a record that’s really about the connection of people — the amazing things that happen between people on the same frequency. It will be an episodic thing that makes a full piece. Every song has an episode.
It connects to my episodic music festival. When I was booking that tour, I wanted to call it ‘The Weekend’s Episodic Festivals.’ I didn’t know why I wanted to call it that, but it’s all going together. Every festival, we’d have a film shoot that became the building blocks of these episodic film pieces. It’s pretty (cool).”
Read Smith’s full interview with Denver Post here.
In the reigning electronic music era, the term “DJ” has become extraordinarily convoluted. Many electronic artists are judged and ranked as DJs based on their production prowess, rather than their skills behind the decks. Furthermore, as music technologies continue to develop, the lines between the actual tools which electronic artists use onstage have become increasingly blurred. Many of dance music’s most important figures don’t use anything resembling turntables or CDJs during their shows.
This list celebrates the ten electronic artists that we believe provided the most evocative performances in 2016. While many of the names below have released spectacular music within the past year, the artists’ production skills were not used as criteria while compiling these rankings. Rather, the aim of this list is to highlight the acts who most formidably astounded their audiences in their concerts; the artists whose tour announcements sent a hush throughout the electronic music realm; the musicians who put on shows so spectacular that the moments they cultivated have achieved legendary status in the year’s canon.
These are Dancing Astronaut’s Top 10 Performers of 2016.
Year after year, Sonny Moore remains one of dance music’s preeminent influencers, and to his credit, one of its most energetic performers. In addition to heading up his OWSLA imprint and continually providing a platform for new talents, Skrillex held down a breakneck performance calendar in 2016. Among Skrillex’s international touring itinerary this year were noteworthy performances at ComplexCon, Chance The Rapper’s debut Magnificent Coloring Day Festival, and his Boiler Room debut in Shanghai. Moore also returned to Burning Man and Coachella, to accompany Snails.
What long-time fans may consider treasonous is actually the key ingredient to Skrillex’s ubiquity — nothing is too dissimilar from his current work to touch. He brings the same earnest and genuine energy to his performances. Dubstep fan or not, its one of the most inclusive environments in the mainstream scene.
– Lucy Davidson
9. Bob Moses
Bob Moses hit the nail on the head with their 2015 debut album, Days Gone By, entering the dance music realm at the exact right time for the industry to welcome them with open arms. With the rise in popularity of indie-electronica crossover acts over the last few years, listeners were ready for something different, and the Canadian partnership of Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance proved perfect to provide that difference.The duo’s multifaceted style yields a stellar live show, but impressively isn’t compromised by their DJ performances. Rather, the two divergent live formats allow Howie and Vallance to explore different facets of their tastes and talents.
2016 has seen Bob Moses play sets at some of the biggest festivals in the world, including Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo. Howie and Vallance have also garnered mainstream attention, receiving a great wealth of airtime on BBC Radio 1 and earning the chance to perform on The Ellen Show. Conversely, the duo fit right in with house and techno legend Lee Burridge on his “All Day I Dream” tour, easily catering to the more underground side of the spectrum. With their enthralling live performance, unique combination of influences, and ubiquitous appeal, it’s glaringly apparent that Bob Moses have established a firm, yet still blossoming legacy.
– Toby Reaper
Amid the rigorous clamor that defines much of the dance music scene, there is the beautiful sound of Tycho, which continuously reaffirms the notion that there is much more to composing music than simply putting sounds together. A true artist in every aspect, Scott Hansen, the leading force behind the project, creates breathtaking, organic soundscapes wherever he goes. Whether performing at the Dusty Rhino art car for his Burning Man sunrise set, or headlining Red Rocks, Hansen’s performances are always inventive and tranquil. Tycho’s music breathes with life, brimming with meaningful depth in both its composition and its performance. Artists with such capabilities have become increasingly rare, as technological advances make production — and performance — more accessible, but arguably less personal.
– Toby Reaper
7. Claude VonStroke
Dirtybird label boss Claude VonStroke has been transitioning from an underground hero to a household name over the last decade. In 2016, a number of mainstream accolades began rolling in for the DJ as well. In September, Claude was named America’s Best DJ (via fan votes in Pioneer DJ and DJ Times’ annual poll), and his uniquely nostalgic festival, Dirtybird Campout, drew an enthusiastic international crowd for its second iteration. At Campout, the DJ performed both as himself and under his real name as his hip hop alter-ego, Barclay Crenshaw, demonstrating that his breadth as a performer is continually expanding, even at this stage in his career.
The house and techno scene is alive and well in the United States, but VonStroke possesses a unique quality among his cohorts — a sense of humor about his craft. In 2016, VonStroke stepped his game up by incorporating elements from his side projects, Get Real and Barclay Crenshaw, without losing the heart of his performance: the tangible irreverence of a Claude VonStroke set.
– Lucy Davidson
Ambitious producer, live musician, and All Good Records owner, Grant Kwiecinski, better known as GRiZ, had yet another year of exponential growth in 2016 — and for good reason. GRiZ is an innovator, and it’s easy to see that he enjoys setting the bar ever higher as he builds his style of futuristic funk into something of a movement. Kwiecinski’s world-class musicianship shines brightly at each and every show he plays, big or small. The energy at a GRiZ show is a spectacle to behold, due to his formidable skills as a saxophonist and Ableton live controller.
From his groundbreaking sold-out Red Rocks show to playing sets all over the Playa at Burning Man, GRiZ can, and will, do it all. The dedicated performer appears at practically every major festival amidst his rigorous touring schedule. Furthermore, the multi-instrumental talent never shies away from a unique collaboration, which perhaps manifested most notably this year during his Big Grizmatik set at Summer Camp, where Kwiecinski partnered with like-minded influencers Big Gigantic and Gramatik to purvey a legendary performance. GRiZ’s most astounding trait, however, is his unbreakable authenticity — both as a musician and a person — which has fostered a devoted cult following (known as “The Liberators”) that few artists can achieve.
– Toby Reaper
5. Pretty Lights
As a performer, Pretty Lights has constantly evolved. Following a musical reawakening in late February, Derek Vincent Smith premiered his Episodic Festival tour. In their new live performance, Smith and his band have finally achieved the perfect balance between their electronic and instrumental components. Pretty Lights has always been revered for his live edits during shows, but in 2016, he inverted his performative process entirely. In the new era of Pretty Lights, Smith implements his improvisations within Ableton impeccably with those of his bandmates.
Overall, the well-tuned musical experience provided during the Episodic Festival is the ideal marriage of Pretty Lights’ contrasting elements; the yin and yang innovate, rather than collide. Greg Ellis’ subtler lighting choices melded masterfully with Pretty Lights’ new performance. In the accompanying visual production, Ellis favored psychedelic laser displays over frenetic rave patterns and reintroduced the sepia-toned cityscapes which were definitive of Smith’s earlier tours.
To create an inimitable live experience that combines free form jam band music, calculated electronic music, and hip hop is an ambitious feat. Setting this divergent combination to an ever-changing, astounding, and harmonious visual spectacle adds a further layer of difficulty.
In 2016, Pretty Lights achieved this feat with resounding success.
– Will McCarthy
4. Boys Noize
Fans were unsure of what to expect when Boys Noize premiered his Mayday performance at Barcelona’s Sónar festival in June. Alex Ridha hadn’t crafted a new live experience since the haunting skull booth which accompanied his electro-heavy Out of the Black tour following his 2012 album of the same name.
In 2016, Boys Noize’s live show manifested the essence and theme of his Mayday albumimpeccably. Rather than revisit the sinister occultism which pervaded his Out of the Black tour, Ridha masterfully recreated the apocalyptic pandemonium which defined his fourth album. Standing behind an elaborate industrial rig, designed with towering iron bars and glaring alarm lights, Ridha wove his dystopian scores through an array of equipment complex enough to make deadmau5 uneasy.
In order to ensure that the Orwellian sensibilities of his Mayday show were properly executed, Boys Noize took a step that very few performers possess the dedication to take. While seamlessly integrating live edits into his performance, Ridha additionally controlled a significant portion of his own visual production.
As the German visionary crafted an apocalyptic masterpiece from behind his industrial imprisonment, chaotic visuals designed by Sus Boy and LIL INTERNET completed the experience, culminating in a showcase which simultaneously evoked visceral energy and airs of totalitarian oppression.
Independently, Boys Noize’s live shows of the past year were a staggering artistic feat. Given the pre-apocalyptic despair that many people are feeling as 2016 draws to a close, one might say that Alex Ridha’s most recent tour was a conceptual embodiment of the year itself.
– Will McCarthy
3. Eric Prydz
Eric Prydz is a veritable juggernaut of a performer. The multi-talented, multi-monikered DJ excels onstage regardless of which identity he chooses to don for any given show. As Cirez D, he purveys a selection of techno which is harrowing and recondite, yet also energizing — often playing warehouse sets for hours on end.
However, Prydz’s shows under his given name are his crowning achievement as a performer. The veteran DJ’s live shows have become so legendary that they have spurred a revered series of their own: Eric Prydz in Concert – appropriately abbreviated as EPIC. Its 2016 edition, EPIC 4.0, is the zenith of a DJ career which spans more than a decade.Eric Prydz in concert is, funnily enough, less of a concert and more of an audio/visual journey.
The technical prowess of Eric Prydz’s EPIC stage production is unparalleled. Prydz shrouds himself within a colossal LED encasement, upon which a vibrant, ever-shifting phantasmagoria enthralls his audience. As thousands of lasers project from his inventively lit fortress, Prydz carefully selects music from his extensive oeuvre to score his inimitable sensory experience, taking spectators on a journey with his uniquely immersive visual platform.The energy of the experience undulates as the multifaceted musician shifts between segments highlighting his various alter-egos.
Each year of Eric Prydz’s storied career has been momentous, but in 2016, Prydz raised his own bar substantially as a performer and producer. Given the artist’s innovative leaps in the past year, the degree to which he’ll shake the dance music world when he premieres EPIC 5.0 in May 2017 is unfathomable.
– Will McCarthy
2. Carl Cox
Carl Cox needs no introduction — the legendary artist’s residency at Space Ibiza concluded its 15 year-run in September with an epic ten-hour, all-vinyl set. While a packed room ushered in the closing of Space, millions of viewers tuned in online to watch Cox’s dazzling final performance. The set further marked the end of a 27-year era, as Ushuaïa will take control of the site next Ibiza season, but the king of dance music isn’t hanging up his crown just yet.
Infectious energy and an ear-to-ear grin are only some of the trademark elements of a Carl Cox DJ set. Over the course of his career which spans more than three decades, Cox has become a master curator with an inexhaustible archive, and a masterful technician to boot. Simply put, there is no superior DJ anywhere, and Cox proved in 2016 that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
– Lucy Davidson
1. Porter Robinson & Madeon
“One single song, one single tour, and then it’s over.”
There’s a bittersweet beauty in the nature of transience. Diamonds are coveted for their rarity. Gesaffelstein’s announcement that his Coachella performance would be his “last live show” made its experience that more exciting. The same principle applies to the “Shelter” phenomenon.
In 2016, no other artists managed to engender widespread fervor for their live shows to the degree which Porter Robinson and Madeon did with Shelter. When Porter Robinson and Madeon abruptly partnered in the studio and onstage, both artists’ respective fan bases were ecstatic. Based upon their sudden ubiquity and undeniable compatibility, many hopefully assumed that the pair of prodigies would continue to work together extensively for years to come.
When Robinson and Madeon announced that their dual tour would mark the end of their partnership, a sizable faction of their followers were devastated — and understandably so. However, while the retirement of their partnership is a disappointing loss, it’s important to note that its impact is inextricable from its ephemerality. Live edits from the show, such as Madeon’s revision of Robinson’s “Flicker,” are evocative not only because of their intrinsic qualities, but because they only exist within the context of the Shelter performance. Robinson and Madeon’s tour is formidable largely because it is fleeting.
The Shelter tour was simultaneously a perfect reflection of both artists’ unique live aesthetics and an expert fusion of their compositional styles. Bookended with renditions of their sole collaboration, Porter Robinson and Madeon transformed each other’s original works throughout their joint performance, both individually and in conjunction. As the pair alternated vocal and instrumental duties behind separate altars, the accompanying visual production was a dazzling combination of both artists’ signature live spectacles.
We were astounded by Porter Robinson and Madeon’s collaborative live endeavors in 2016, and we are excited to see what both artists individually have in store for 2017.
– Will McCarthy
Photos by Rukes, Molly Gale, AJRPhotography, and courtesy of artists.