Meandering melodies and subtle guest vocals
The man behind the mask is Aaron Jerome. In his guise as SBTRKT, he's signed to the XL (Adele, Radiohead, Beck) imprint Young Turks, who were the powerhouse behind the xx's first album, Holy F**k's second album, plus releases by El Guincho, Kwes and Glasser.
Why the face, then? It becomes more obvious as you listen to his debut album, SBTRKT, released last year. It's not just that Jerome doesn't sing; that he's the producer on a record with four different guest vocalists. The music itself is subtle, understated; there's none of the aggressiveness of the now extremely popular dubstep offshoot "brostep" (house and metal-influenced, see: Skrillex). Instead, there's intricate pulsing, waves and washes of harmony. Even at its most energetic, the album is smooth and clean and controlled.
The vocalists are not something to be brushed over. Firstly, there's Little Dragon, the Swedish group led by Yukimi Nagano, whose performance on Wildfire (the first single from the album) starts with a breathy mic-test squeal before swiftly easing into one of the most effortless, meandering melodies of the 43 minutes. There's Roses Gabor, who appears on Pharaohs, another of the dancier, poppier tracks, whose voice is breathy yet syrupy, each word or phrase contained to a little burst from the speaker. Then there's Jerome's partner in crime, Sampha, the only other touring member in the group, playing keyboards, triggering loops and singing. His voice is endemic of British R'n'B-influenced post-dubstep (quite the mouthful just to say) and his voice shares the creaky sadness of fellow Londoner James Blake).
Finally, there's Jessie Ware; perhaps the most talked about name of late, having recently been nominated for this year's Mercury Prize.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
The importance of these guest choices cannot be understated. So often, the list of featured performers on these types of producer/guest albums is only impressive on paper. Though it's quite the coup to score 11 of pop's most chart-worthy singers, it rarely amounts to more than a mixtape from which to draw singles. What Jerome has done here is found four vocalists whom, while maintaining distinct styles and nuances, are on the same page enough to slot into the vision for this album; adding personality but never detracting from the whole. And so, even though Jerome never really takes the spotlight (at least not in the leading man sense of the word), he's always the glue holding it together; always in charge, always the visionary. This is why it makes sense that SBTRKT should be a project, its leader anonymous and masked; each guest becomes a part of the group, rather than just a collaborator.
If you need more convincing (or perhaps you skipped straight down here when you saw the following names), SBTRKT has also worked on remixes by M.I.A, Radiohead, Modeselektor, Basement Jaxx, Mark Ronson, Underworld and Goldie, and been remixed by Drake (in no official capacity – the Canadian simply posted it on his blog – but it later became a big hit in the US).
The Bristol show marks the beginning of only a four-date UK tour, before they jet off to the US and Mexico. The O2 show will be a live performance, however, SBTRKT return to Motion, Bristol, on November 17 to play a DJ set at one of the In:Motion events, with Rustie, Koreless and Shackleton.
SBTRKT Wednesday, October 3, O2 Academy. See listings for details.