SBTRKT Lives Up to the Hype
SBTRKT has been stirring things up lately. With many pre-release plays from big DJ’s including Boilerroom regulars, hype was very well built up for the release of the anonymous producer’s eponymous debut LP on Young Turks. I usually don’t believe in hype. Aggressive marketing ploys and abusive use of the hype-machine that is the internet are too often deceptive; Skepta’s latest is probably the best example that I can give of this off the top of my head. So obviously, when I obtained SBTRKT’s release, I didn’t expected the whole album to be of Wildfire calibre. I was very, very wrong.
With it’s all-synth sonority, borked drum machine beat and deep, sensible vocals, Heatwave sets the pace for the rest of the album: this is going to be one of those undescribable new-electro / bass / post-dubstep albums. I reluctantly attached the “Bass / Electronic” genre label to this album, and it stayed there even after the first complete listen, because I cannot for the love of me put something more descriptive. A wide range of influences are omnipresent: Wildfire’s wobbly bass shows off an aesthetic reminiscent of earlier dubstep, but then the another track, Pharoahs, pops a house-y, almost funk-esque beat and bassline out of the blue to throws you off. Every track gets a generous serving of heart-searingly emotional vocals, which further adds to the confusion.
I’m not going to review the entire song by song; I’m lightyears away from being a music critic and I’d rather leave that kind of job to people who have the vocabulary and musical knowledge to do a good job of it. What I will do, however, is clumsily try to give you my overall impression of the album. All in all, SBTRKT’s debut is amazingly fresh through the wide range of genres that it manages to cram in a single, continuous album that conserves a distinctive feel. Furthermore, the vocal elements present throughout gives it a character that straight-up electronic dance floor destroyers lack, no matter how good. Electronic music has failed numerous times at integrating voice as a tool for conveying emotion (recent proof), however this album is clearly an exception with Sampha & Little Dragon laying down lyrics with a fragile, smooth tone that isn’t corny or cheesy in any way.
There truly is something for everybody in this album. If you can’t enjoy the instrumental aspect of at least one track on this release, then chances are you hate electronic music altogether, and if the lyrics were able to touch the most hardcore bro-step lovers amongst my friends, then chances are you’ll be touched too. Please, please, don’t make this a morning commute type of listening. This album warrants taking 45 minutes out of your day to find a comfortable seat and some HiFi for a proper listening session: you’re in for quite a ride. The last time I’ve felt so much emotion in synthetic beats was with Zero T’s “Cheap Shots”, more particularly on Walk Away, and for this reason, I have to say that this release is right up there in my top 5 favourite albums of all time.