The Emerging Power of
Michal Menert, PLM
DJ’s Supervision, Grammatik and Menert Showcase Some Of The Power of Pretty Lights Music
Michal Menert delivers in the studio and onstage.
By Taylor Holmes
Special for Modern Times Magazine
Dec. 9, 2011 — A sharp December wind cut through the streets Saturday night but the underground shelter of Santa Monica’s Central S.A.P.C. made sure everyone was cozy for the Southern California stop of the Pretty Lights Music Tour.
Ducking down the stairs into the “social aid and pleasure club,” I was enveloped by an undeniably positive atmosphere. Gentle warmth and light flowed from the fireplace near the door, a sentry against the chill outside. With its subterranean style of exposed brick and rich woodwork, Central offers an intimate, modern, but homey space for anyone in need of some musical therapy or a low-key social scene.
The venue was a perfect match for Pretty Lights Music, or PLM, the record label formed by Derek Vincent Smith of Pretty Lights, which began releasing albums this year. The PLM tour bill is designed to make one feel fantastic, featuring a powerful dose of DJ’s Supervision, Grammatik and, Michal Menert (co-producer of the PL album “Taking up Your Precious Time”).
The PLM family is helping take music back from the world of commodities and re-establishing it as a means for human empowerment and celebration, offering up the entire PL catalogue as well as albums from Grammatik, Supervision, Paul Basic, Paper Diamond, Break Science, and Michal Menert, for donation based download (prettylightsmusic.com). Shifting focus away from album sales and towards accessibility has been a major trend in the music industry over the last ten years, with even mainstream artists, such as Radiohead, releasing new music without the traditional price tags. Donation based digital distribution has helped artists like PL gain a huge fan following quickly while protecting them from penalties of copyright infringement, a major legal risk when most of your sonic building blocks are derived from other artists and sources.
The digital medium also allows for a rich culture of cross fertilization at a level that no music scene has ever experienced, with remixes and collaborations galore. Because of the accessibly and ease of sharing that characterizes electronic music today, it is not as constrained by national borders or legislative limitations, and thus is quickly becoming a more heavily globalized genre than any we have seen in the past.
While everyone on the bill contributed to a fantastic show, onstage Michal Menert was a standout gem. A long time confidant and collaborator with PL mastermind Derek Vincent Smith, Menert’s style is heavily influenced by the sounds of Eastern Europe he was exposed to during his early childhood in Poland. While performing tracks off his album Dreaming of a Bigger Life, and new material, Michal was intensely physical. A bear of a man, his presence in the close quarters of the basement venue gave the audience a visceral look at the creative process of a deft composer absorbed in his medium.
Amid bright lights, shouts of encouragement and sweetly sweaty dancing fans, Michal used his 21st century gear to spin timeless auditory landscapes that could just have easily come from the dreaming mind of Brian Wilson, Bootsy Collins or Bach. His music shows the signs of an approach analogous to collage. Menert fuses everything from vintage soul and blues vinyl, organic drum and string samples, to pieces of orchestral cinematic scores in his pieces, working the elements of timbre, rhythm and melody into a cohesive mosaic form. It’s obvious Michal pours his heart and mind into his compositions which can both deeply affect the soul and move bodies on the dance floor with ease.
Menert’s tracks exhibit similar threads — working sonic elements together to intricately weave an intentional emotional landscape from a spectrum of hugely different base materials. As a byproduct, his compositions contain a strong current of universality, which makes them enjoyable and accessible to listeners from any musical background.
Between his awe inspiring set and his extremely energetic encore, I got a chance to talk with him — interestingly not about music, but the way cities function as unified organisms, allowing the individuals some degree of anonymity and privacy despite the crowds.
Even days after the show, I am still wearing the satisfied grin I had that night at Central S.A.C.P.
Those who were not there, though, still have a chance to catch another date — but you have to act fast as the fall tour will most likely end sometime this winter. The PLM fall tour continues for about another two weeks of shows in California, Washington and Texas. If you can’t make it to a show, be sure to check out Graffiti Fine Art, a documentary film released this year from first time director Jared Levy, which features tracks from Michal Menert, Pretty Lights and Paper Diamond.
And, of course, anyone can still get a taste of Menert and the other PLM artists by heading to PLM’s website and downloading Menert’s Dreaming of a Bigger Life so you can listen for yourself to one of today‘s most talented producers.
Taylor Holmes is a freelance writer from California.