One of the greatest attractions to SBTRKT, at least in the earlier stages of his career, was the element of mystery surrounding him. For example, the use of a mask in order to remove the idea of a single person being associated with the project added significantly to this. However the talent of the individual has somewhat surpassed this original idea, in the clamour for people to find out exactly who this self-taught producer is. His name is Aaron Jerome, if you wondering, but his name doesn’t matter nearly as much as the identity of the artist. In his own words: ‘[I’d] rather not talk about myself as a person, and let the music speak for itself. The name SBTRKT is me taking myself away from that whole process.’ With that said, I’ll stop talking about the man and start talking about the music.
This album is definitely much edgier than his debut, self-titled, album. That is the first thing I noticed about it upon listening to it, and upon seeing the cover and preview video for it. The bouncy semi-dubstep element is well and truly gone now, replaced by grit and feedback, by bass guitar and high pitched, almost otherworldly sounds. The black background of the first album cover, with playfully coloured masks has also been dropped for a violent red, an intriguing, iridescent hand and a truly enigmatic black creature, which actually does a huge amount to set the scene for the entire album.
One feature SBTRKT has brought through from his first album is regular collaboration with Sampha, something I am very glad about. The title track for the album, and the second track of the whole thing is probably my favourite of these, however Temporary View is definitely still impressive. The production behind Look Away is probably my favourite on the album. Caroline Polachek has an incredible voice, but I do really crave rap over the top of this beat. For me, someone like Mos Def rapping over this would be almost perfection in a track. As it is, the song has an almost hypnotic quality, in the form of the intense and obscenely catchy chorus. It is a real testament to the quality behind the mask.
However one song which has been overrated, in my opinion, is NEW DORP. NEW YORK. To be fair, I love the use of bass guitar, in the style of funk, and much of SBTRKT’s work on the track in general. The thing which puts me off the track is basically the lyricism. It feels obscure almost for the sake of being obscure and void of any real meaning. Although I don’t really like Ezra Koenig in the first place, so this may be an unfair judgement because of that fact.
The first of the two collaborations which catch my attention most is the use of A$AP Ferg (and Warpaint) on the last track. Ferg is an artist who seems to continually impress me, to an increasing extent too. His recent collaborations have done nothing but show an incredibly versatile artist emerging, almost evolving, from a rap group who, despite being fresh, interesting and incredibly talented, are not exactly groundbreaking. And this follows one of my favourite rap albums of last year. For example My Song 5 by Haim shows Ferg go rock and roll in a very real sense of the phrase. Again here Ferg moves in a very different direction to what we might expect from an artist of his ‘type’, creating a very interesting track to end the album with.
My favourite album from the track, however, is also the second collaboration to catch my eye. Higher features an artist called Raury, an individual making incredibly large waves for an 18 year old. The track is very different from his solo work, begging the question of why he doesn’t make this style of music his ‘speciality’. The flow is absolutely flawless, breathless even. I cannot explain to you how good this track is without you listening to it. The production, the energy, the flow, the lyricism, all of it. Honestly, this track is incredible.
Another favourite track from this album, for very different reasons, is The Light featuring the voice of the spectacular Denai Moore. It’s catchy, interesting and so smooth. I feel like this track could have been a follow up to Wildfire in terms of chart success, but instead NEW DORP. NEW YORK was selected, not that it was an unsuccessful choice at all. The track is comforting, and is one of my favourite overall SBTRKT songs to date.
As I said at the start, the album is definitely much darker, more interesting artistically I suppose. However it does almost feel like boundaries are being pushed for the sake of pushing in some places, and the vibrancy of certain parts of the album does almost feel uncomfortable. Watch the video below, you might feel the same. However in all I do really like this album, and it will definitely be one to enter my album collection for re-visiting again and again. It is a solid second full-length, and an impressive release in general.