Tribal Beats

by: Blaine Skrainka

November 4, 2011

We’re SBTRKT, we’re from South London, and we’re going to play a few songs from our album for you,” said the shadowy figure cloaked in a tribal mask behind a set-up that looked like it could be the cockpit of a spaceship from another galaxy. Aaron Jerome alongside guest-vocalist Sampha bewitched the crowds of his two New York City sets on the Halloween stops of his tour.

SBTRKT (pronounced with vowels-included) emerged from the London underground scene in 2009 with a couple of self-released EPs. He has since gone on to work with the likes of Little Dragon, Drake, and has been featured on Radiohead’s official King of Limbs remix album. The self-titled SBTRKT album, released by Young Turks, is set apart from other low-end DJ and electronic music with the inclusion of captivating guest vocals from Roses Gabor, Yukimi, Sampha and Jessie Ware.  Few albums can express the vulnerabilities of life and love through introspective lyrics while still coloring the emotions with splashes of dubstep (see Never Never and Right Thing To Do).

Hiding behind tribal masks, for reasons of anonymity according to Jerome, actually does more to fill the character of a foreign yet familiar entity lost is a dreamworld of layered synths and complex beats. While SBTRKT often performs solo DJ sets, this tour features a full setup with Jerome playing live drums and mixing beats through computers and effects boards. Sampha’s voice and use of double bells brings the electronic syncopation to life. It took a couple of songs to match the sound levels with the acoustics of the room, but the night was highlighted with the track Wildfire which perfectly mixed the live instrument elements with mixed samples of the original recordings.

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