“Rainbows and Waterfalls” finds Derek Vincent Smith—aka Pretty Lights—doing what he does best: blending the smooth sounds of old school funk and hip-hip with a next generation style that defies categorization. Shuggie Otis’ 1971 classic “Strawberry Letter 23” sets the foundation for the new track, which marks Pretty Lights’ first release since “Only Yesterday” dropped in March 2016. As a solo effort, it also represents a return to form for the Grammy-nominated producer, who Rick Rubin once called “the face and voice of the new American electronic music scene.”
Smith may have a well-deserved reputation for innovation in the studio, but his fresh approach to music has always been equally potent on stage. With the Pretty Lights Live project, he’s found a way to turn his electronic music shows into fully improvisational experiences like no other. It’s a unique vision that he brings to life with the help of Alvin Ford Jr. (drums), Chris Karns (turntables), Borahm Lee (keys) and Brandon Butler (keys) — a stellar group of musicians who have backed him in concert since the summer of 2016. Taking cues from early jazz musicians, Smith and his band make sure every performance is a unique adventure by injecting a healthy dose of improv into the equation. No song ever sounds the same twice.
Smith’s mission to make every set a one-of-a-kind experience has been on full display with the open-ended Episodic Tour, a series of two-day gatherings that brought Pretty Lights Live to every corner of the U.S. in 2016 and 2017. Over the course of 10 iterations (so far), the band has proven itself a bonafide force of nature while telling a story through sound and light at some of America’s most beautiful venues. Seasons 1 and 2 have come to a close, but there’s no telling what the future holds.