By Jamie Reysen
Once again, Derek Vincent Smith proves he’s more than a producer with a laptop: he’s a storyteller, weaving depth into every track and into the very heart of his latest EP, Glowing in the Darkest Night.
If one were to peel away each layer of sound—hip-hop samples, jazzy vocals, organic beats, glichy syncopation—there exists soul at the EP’s very core.
Smith kicks things off with “Still Night,” a track that showcases the distinct influences that characterize his work. A bluesy vocal sample opens; then Smith transitions into a hip-hop heavy Alkoholiks’ sample with a strong statement: welcome to the next level. A suspenseful beat stays constant underneath Smith’s melting pot of syncopation and warped samples.
A message from Tupac is immortalized through “Out of Time.” As he raps, “My attitude got me walkin’ solo, watchin’ the whole world move in slow-mo,” a female vocalist repeatedly promises, “And I’ll wait for you,” over glitchy beats. The track gives off the feeling of loneliness and isolation, of being “out of time.”
“Looking for Love (But Not So Sure)” also features a unique blend of harmonic female vocals and rap samples. A romantic piano melody comes and goes throughout the track, interrupted by heavily manipulated vocal samples and electro instrumental beats.
Smith puts a modern-day twist on vintage funk in “Shining Bright Despite the Plight.” He features a diverse array of vocal samples that lend unique elements of flavor to the track, infusing soulful jazz and R&B throughout. One line in particular stands out, summing up its audience—“all the people in the city, trying to stay afloat.”
“Gazing at the Glare” sounds like it will be the dance hit off the EP. With its perfect synthesis of sassy beats, soulful vocal samples, and hip-hop, it’s as if Smith grazes across the spectrum of music genres. Lyrics from one of the samples, “Though you’re lost in the world, you’ve got to march to the drum,” sum up the attitude of the track.
“Drift Away” is a dreamy composition powered by Wu-Syndicate’s poetic “Weary Eyes” chorus: close your weary eyes and drift away, it’s all right.
Initially laidback, Smith brings intensity to “So Much in the Dark” with unexpected, yet purposeful, hard-hitting drumbeats and bass against a glitchy chord progression. A vocal sampling fades out to end the track—and the EP—exuding a vibe that promises more to come, just not this year.
Though Glowing in the Darkest Night is the final Pretty Lights EP of 2010, Smith shows no signs of slowing down.
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