Words About Music
SBTRKT “Wonder Where We Land”
I’ve been following SBTRKT closely ever since I stumbled upon him in 2011 around the time he released his self-titled debut. The mysterious producer has kept sort of quiet since then, waiting to make his next move. SBTRKT’s music was revolutionary for me at the time because my closest relationship to electronic music was the hyper-exaggerated bass-heavy “bro-step” that became popular for a bit. When I read in an article that SBTRKT’s music was sort of a “post-dubstep,” that was before I associated the word “dubstep” with UK producers like Burial and Kode9. SBTRKT’s music took me by surprise, but across repeat listens I was able to appreciate and love it, which eventually opened me up to artists like Burial and so forth. SBTRKT is an important figure in my musical development, and while I was very disappointed with his technical-difficulties-heavy live show at Primavera this year, his new music gave me hope.
Our first taste of SBTRKT’s second album “Wonder Where We Land” was the strange semi-ode to New York, “New Dorp. New York,” which features first-time collaborator Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend. Very odd track, but I continue to enjoy it nonetheless. Across “Wonder Where We Land” are vocal tracks with previous collaborators (Sampha, Jessie Ware) and new ones (Raury, A$AP Ferg). This album supplies quite a bit more variance and diversity than his debut, but that appears to be a blessing and a curse here. It is nice to hear SBTRKT try new sounds and styles, but part of what I continue to love so much about his debut is its cohesiveness. The garage-y drums, sub-bass, and catchy song after catchy song all played a part in making that album an awesome one. While “Wonder Where We Land” has its share of catchy songs, a good portion of the album’s songs are forgettable.
Most noticeably, “Wonder Where We Land” is oversaturated with Sampha. I love his voice just as much as the next person, but of the four songs that feature him on this album, only one of them (“Temporary View”) strikes me as an altogether great song. SBTRKT is very gifted when it comes to producing the tracks, but I’d like to hear him work with other vocalists, which he starts to do on this album. The track I was most surprised by is “Higher” which features 18-year old Atlanta up-and-comer Raury. Raury’s debut mixtape “Indigo Child” dropped earlier this year and I was very underwhelmed by the Kid Cudi mainstream indie rock emulation, but on this song he really shines as a potential MC.
“Wonder Where We Land” is decent enough and features more awesome SBTRKT songs, but his debut towers over it. I’m definitely going to continue following SBTRKT’s career and I look forward to what he does next, but “Wonder Where We Land” left me for the most part thinking “Alright.” There’s nothing too terrible about this album, but I don’t quite connect with it as much as I’d like. I do hope he does more left-field collaborations with buzzworthy singers (my guess is we’ll get one featuring Haim next) and… yeah. That’s pretty much it.
SCORE – 6.6
FAVORITE TRACKS – Higher (feat. Raury), Look Away (feat. Caroline Polachek), Temporary View (feat. Sampha), New Dorp. New York (feat. Ezra Koenig), Problem (Solved) (feat. Jessie Ware), Voices in my Head (feat. A$AP Ferg)