Note to self: Not only will I never judge a book by a cover, I will never again judge an album by its genre. Because when you do, you can miss out on one of the best albums you’ve had the pleasure to run across all year. On the brink of dismissing this record as another project I would have to toil through to describe and review, SBTRKT and his eponymous debut essentially changes my entire perception of electronica (and anything associated in it) with this epic victory of an album.
Holding fast to his anonymity and privacy, SBTRKT takes a page from the MF Doom book and hides his identity behind traditional African masks while letting his music and electronic, hypnotic remixes speak for themselves. Seemingly focused on building a diverse discography that includes a wide range of musicians guesting on his records, it wont be surprising to randomly see Soul II Soul or Moby credited in his liner notes while hearing the airy lead vocals of Yukimi Nagano, of Little Dragon, drifting over SBTRKT’s carefully crafted tracks.
Falling into the beautiful realm of that old school Massive Attack/Chemical Brothers sound that I love so much while incorporating a modern and fresh approach to his project, SBTRKT has taken the traditional approach to the electronica/synth-pop album and puts an amazing twist on it, leaving us with an gorgeous melting pot of sound and music that is blowing my mind. With open and obvious dubstep, go-go, soul, trip-hop and African/Brazilian influences running through tracks laced with driving synth beats and lyrics that range from emotionally intense to party starting, SBTRKT has found and demonstrates a wonderful balance and understanding of all music that I am currently falling in love with. When you have songs like the urban/soul influenced “Wildfire”, the dance-beat driven “Santuary”, classically synth-pop influenced “Something Goes Right”, and club favorite “Pharaohs” hitting you back to back… you quickly realize that this is not your average album by far.
It’s projects like these that make me love my job. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, something like this comes along that seamlessly transcends its own titles and my own expectations. Maybe I’m a bit excited, but this isn’t even what I’m normally into musically and I LOVE IT. That’s usually the first sign of a great album. If you were into those Frank Ocean joints, Julio Bashmore or love the direction that Little Dragon is headed in, this might be something you want to check out quickly. Its real over here. Go play this album a few times. I will be, that’s for sure. It’s definitely worth your time.