When selecting a moniker, producer SBTKRT (pronounced subtract) went the way of MGMT, and chose an alias that might be described as confusing or a bit cumbersome. Luckily for the listener, the clunky nature of the masked-man’s name, is in no way reflected in the streamlined production on his eponymous debut LP. While it might be hard to pigeon-hole the sound found on the self-titled effort as Dub-Step, Two-Step, Funky, or any other electronic buzz-genre that comes to mind, it should be the last subject on your mind by the close of the record… You’ll probably just want to play the thing over again.
In a press statement referring to the recording of the new album, SBTRKT claimed that “This release is the culmination of a longer period of constant writing and collaboration, tracks on previous EPs were written as singular pieces. This record is much more of a whole project, more representative of my thoughts and ideas as an artist and each track was completed with the aim to be coherent together.” Countless artists have made this claim over time, but it seems that few ever seem to actually follow through on the promise. This London-based producer, however, actually makes good on the premise he laid out above, and does so in an unmistakable fashion all his own.
There is a common production style and tone that rings true throughout the entirety of this debut album, which skillfully skates the line between glitched-out spaz disco, and smooth blue-eyed RnB. While I wouldn’t know how to precisely describe this sound (as displayed by the barrage of goofy adjectives I pummeled you with in the previous sentence), SBTKRT has stumbled onto a signature vibe that never once wavers as the album unfolds itself. One might be tempted to compare the content here to early work churned out by the British nerds Hot-Chip , but this stuff is far less self-aware or self-deprecating, and all the better for it. SBTKRT is too busy helping people get down to poke fun at himself.
I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention the various vocalists who moonlight on a number of tracks throughout the record. The handful of singers employed by the producer will probably go unheralded in the grand scheme of things, but really shouldn’t be overlooked. The soft-spoken crooner Sampha submits four workmanlike performances when all is said and done, and eventually separates himself as the obvious choice for SBTRKT’s second-in-command. ”Something Goes Right” features the guy’s vocal stylings, and functions as a modern take on the Herbert classic “Something isn’t Right“ in many respects. While the song title may appear contradictory on paper, I think you’ll find that the overall sentiment and tone of the pair mirror each other. Each song could represent a plotted point on the trajectory of a tumultuous romantic relationship.
At first glance, the African mask iconography employed by SBTRKT, who is actually named Aaron Jerome, might conjure up flashes of the abrasive home recordings of Mike Sniper’s Blank Dogs. Upon listening to the record, you’ll find the two artists share little in common, aside from their respective uniqueness when approaching the production of music. The debut record from SBTRKT places him on an Island, genre-wise, that you’ll probably want to travel out to at some point.