SBTRKT – [Album]

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

It's been a while (about ten years – give or take) since trance-y, ambient electronic music and trip hop really commanded much of a presence in the mainstream (the late greats of the explosion that happened in the Nineties included Propellerheads, Sneaker Pimps and Portishead), but that doesn't mean the music just spontaneously evaporated. No, all that music and most of those aforementioned artists simply retreated back to the dance caves from which they matriculated, continued to learn and develop new ideas. One of those new ideas has become known as dubstep; a buzzword-of-the-moment which has begun to blanket so many artists (including Skrillex, Deadmau5, Pretty Lights, newer Nomeansno music and The Prodigy) that the music itself has become very difficult to qualify, definitively. Most detractors have cited the softer edges and fast-and-loose guidelines for what dubstep “is” and “isn't” as a way of discounting the music but, on his self-titled debut LP (released now, after a multitude of singles and EPs), Aaron “SBTRKT” Jerome uses those gray areas inherent in the music's design as the perfect ways and means to innovate it – not mock it.

Perhaps because his intention is to challenge the popular impressions of dubstep that already exist, Jerome starts easy on SBTRKT with “Heatwave” to build up a sense of security in listeners. The producer introduces himself here with a series of sighing vocals (no lyrics), skittering beats and a generally ambient posture as “Heatwave” plys but, in contrast to the popular opinions (and song construction cliches) of dubstep, the bass part of the song is stalk straight (no wobble), miles thick and droning, while synch sounds are smooth and consistent. In effect, “Heatwave” stands in perfect opposition to the “dubstep paradigm” and plays like a straight-up ambient track – but isn't blatant about it.

SBTRKT continues opposing dubstep staples as the producer injects more conventional songwriting forms (i.e. Full, coherent lyric sheets, if not verse-chorus-verse structures) into songs like “Wildfire,” “Trials Of The Past,” “Pharoahs” and “Never Never” and sets them against smoother, more fluidly arranged music than is common among most of his peers. With no hard angles or parring sounds to contend with, a listener's first instinct is to just chill out and let the music wash easily along; to sit, have a cigarette and sigh rather than get up and dance. Again, these are not the common desires when on thinks of electronic music at all (unless it's the third song in any stripper's set at a club), but it has its place and it does what it intends to do – totally ignore the forms present and common in the electronic music of the moment – beautifully.



SBTRKT – “Wildfire” – SBTRKT


SBTRKT is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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