Pretty Lights, City Arts and Music Project, London

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The Independent Culture

If volume and temperature were currency, Derek Vincent Smith would be a rich man indeed.

The Colorado DJ, better known as Pretty Lights, is blasting out a deafening set in the the subterranean confines of the City Arts and Music Project, and the crowd are not the only ones feeling the heat as it rises: the walls themselves are sweating, the ice put in drinks melting almost instantly. A product of both Smith's own energy and the enthusiasm of his audience, the furnace-like climate is something few will forget. It's a testament to Pretty Lights' talent that it will not be the overriding memory.

It's hard to envisage Smith's first musical forays; hailing from a college town north of Denver, his music belies his background, full of big-city verve and thudding, hard edges. If Pretty Lights' moniker is deceptively quaint-sounding, his music is just as unexpected. Combining elements of electronic genres as disparate as house, drum 'n' bass and trip-hop, Pretty Lights' live show is both finely nuanced and brutally forceful.

For if subtlety is not something initially audible tonight, it's certainly a crucial ingredient of every beat, drop and hook: as the show goes on the intelligence of Pretty Lights comes into view. Smith's beats are insistent and irresistible, mixing the laid-back swagger of hip-hop with the undiluted impact of dubstep, and his sprinkling of samples is brilliantly judged. Of course, there are occasions when classic DJ tropes slip in a "hands in the air" call – a long gap followed by a huge bass drop – but these are scarce from an artist who sets his stock in originality in a genre overpopulated with copycats.

Smith comes across as much as an enthusiast as a musician, his vigour constantly lifting the crowd as he rattles through a seamless, break-free two-hour set. There is always a limited amount of enjoyment in watching a man huddled over two decks, but Smith plays to the crowd in this intimate venue, high-fiving the front-rowers and making sure no one keeps their feet still.

Throughout tonight's show, no one does, but while listening to such an inventive blend of electronic styles, it's hard to envisage anyone resisting the urge to move.

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