SBTRKT: Wonder Where We Land

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Wonder Where We Land, the second album from SBTRKT, has a long list of collaborators; Vampire Weekend’s  Ezra Koenig and rapper A$AP Ferg are but a few artists collaborating on the 40 minute eclectic album from London’s most enigmatic producer.

Jerome builds on the production ideas of 2014’s Transitions EP, and fleshes them out with vocalists and sharp-edged lyricism. But the songs are just that: singles. The electronic interludes don’t stand up on their own, and the SBTRKT moniker becomes that of a producer—the beats behind the songs rather than the songs themselves.

Wonder Where We Land makes for a very different album than 2011’s self-titled release, SBTRKT. At times the new album does not seem to form a cohesive whole, but rather short, progressive interludes. “Day 1” and “Day 5” introduce the dance-ready post-dubstep of “Lantern,” but lack uniform segues. A more familiar SBTRKT dominates the slow-burning title track and “Temporary View”; the jazz-pop combo on “New Dorp. New York” is an album highlight.

However, Jerome’s live performances outshine the albums. Imagine Field Day 2014, London’s experimental / electronic music festival. An inflated panther-like creature looms over the foggy stage, threatening to knock over the ornately arranged instruments. The air smells of cigarette smoke sweetened with designer drugs, and the ground is littered with nitrous canisters. Aaron Jerome and company take to the stage adorned in emblematic tribal masks.

Seeing SBTRKT live is a fully immersive experience. The songs are fleshed out with a five-piece band, and guest vocalists who command the stage. Sampha, a regular contributor, seems right in his comfort zone hyping the crowd for the new track, “Temporary View” and performing cuts from the 2011 album. SBTRKT commands attention on the dancier instrumental tracks that become lost on the album, such as “Lantern” and “Everybody Knows.”

Wonder Where We Land places the focus on the names it champions, like A$AP Ferg on the cool, laid-back “Voices In My Head.” The gorgeous electronic production becomes the background and the moments when it stands alone feel like interludes. Rather than an immersive listening experience, Wonder Where We Land is a collaborative project which showcases Aaron Jerome’s skillful production, but not to its fullest extent. For that, you’ll have to see him live.

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