Record Label: Young Turks
Rating: 6.5 /10
The rise of SBTRKT has been stealth like but at the same time, meteoric. Back in 2011 it seemed only a clutch of musical diehards appreciated Aaron Jerome’s ‘post-The xx electronica’, however come festival season and a hook up with Drake, the love for the mysterious masked producer became an epidemic. Jerome’s obscured face and anonymity provided an intriguing sidearm to his bleeps and beats ensuring the Londoner’s self-titled debut held an enigmatic allure. Leap forward three years and Jerome is ready to offer up the fruits of his latest labours in the guise of ‘Wonder Where We Land’. Again members of the extended SBTRKT family are in tow, Jessie Ware and Sampha provide vocals on a clutch of tracks. As you’d expect after a well-received debut LP comes more attention and this means the range of collaborators has swelled with Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek plus rappers Raury and A$AP Ferg have received the golden handshake into Jerome’s sonic circle of trust.
Where ‘SBTRKT’ fed off driven beats and subtle dancefloor ‘bangers’, ‘Wonder Where We Land’ adopts a nocturnal personality. This is an album that feeds off a shadow laden atmosphere where synths are murky and vibes are subdued. A hook up with Glaswegian producer Koreless on ‘Osea’ wafts a 5am breaking of dawn sensation with its sombre digital waves fused with twinkling atmospherics. Equally the two interlude tracks ‘Day 1’ and ‘Day 5’ both attribute a feeling of night passing and a new day beginning – albeit when you’ve been turfed out of the club and the sun is burning your vampire eyes. Palochek’s inclusion on ‘Look Away’ hands ‘Wonder Where We Land’ a piercing but minimal clatter that hums and womps with limited purpose.
There’s a feeling with ‘Wonder Where We Land’ that urgency is very much on the backburner. ‘SBTRKT’ demanded your attention and sucked you in with its collage of rich textures but the same can’t be said for the album’s successor. The revolving door of vocalists takes away the focus from Jerome’s production skills thus creating obscurity to the point your attention isn’t on SBTRKT’s noir-electronica. With the roster of different voices on offer throughout Jerome’s second LP, there’s too much disparity from one track to the next; there’s little continuity gluing the composite tracks together. Another factor with SBTRKT is there’s always been the feeling of something sophisticated about the way Jerome works, however the inclusion of rappers Raury and A$AP Ferg fits like a square peg in a round hole. Cliché lyrical snippets of “bitches and being addicted to pussy” appear crass and unwanted when you’ve got the demure likes of Jessie Ware and Denai Moore featuring on the album adding their delicate purrs to ‘The Light’ and ‘Problem (Solved)’.
There’s no argument here that ‘Wonder Where We Land’ is an adventurous album but the lack of a defined final destination and how to get there is where SBTRKT gets lost along the way.
Word and Thoughts of Adam Williams