Mystery and anonymity hold a special appeal in the music world. This holds especially true in the realm of electronica, where the line between the music and the individual behind it is often times blurred.
SBTRKT is London DJ, musician and producer Aaron Jerome’s experiment with the concept of anonymity.
When he first appeared on the British electronic scene in 2009, next to nothing was known of the masked man, save for his high-profile remixes (for M.I.A. and Underworld, among others) and funky concoctions of two-step, U.K. garage and Chicago house. This was entirely by design, as SBTRKT’s name is meant to reflect Jerome removing himself from the equation and allowing the music to speak for itself. Though his real name was soon leaked, the moniker has held true to its intentions, maintaining the mysterious persona that revolves around the impressive tribal masks created by collaborative designer Hidden Place.
After the critically acclaimed release of several singles and the deliciously vibeful Step in Shadows EP, SBTRKT’s eponymous arrives with explosive results. SBTRKT is an eclectic album with unclear influences, and a unique, bass-driven sound. It also comes across as a heavily soulful record, which can partly be explained by the album’s many guest vocalists. Most notable is Sampha, whose yearning falsetto breaks through the swirling synth buildups and glitchy breakbeats of opening track “Heatwave,” as well as six other tracks on the record. Among those lending their voices to SBTRKT is Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon, whose intensely adorable vocals burn red hot atop a raunchy baseline in “Wildfire.”
Album closer “Go Bang” is the only vocal-deprived track, but the heavy beat and bittersweet chord progression leave the listener with a deeply emotional aftertaste, one that piques the desire for another listen.
SBTRKT is a powerful and influential new force in the electronic scene, mixing styles and pushing boundaries. He’s definitely worth keeping an eye on, as we have not seen the last of this masked man.