"Most of my ideas are written at night" explains SBTRKT. "Late at night, when everything around is silent - that atmosphere is where most of this record came from, and for me it explains it's sound"
SBTRKT is no stranger to writing, recording and releasing music. To date he's had multiple releases on Brainmath, Numbers, Ramp, Monkeytown and now home label Young Turks. Add to that reworkings of Radiohead and Goldie, and remixes of Modeselektor... However, this self-titled release is his first full-length album. "This release is the culmination of a longer period of constant writing and collaboration, tracks on previous EPs were written as singular pieces. This record is much more of a whole project, more representative of my thoughts and ideas as an artist and each track was completed with the aim to be coherent together."
The SBTRKT story starts from the sound system of an east London club called Plastic People, which is both underground in location and in the music it specializes in. It was here that SBTRKT met a gentleman named Tic and was schooled by the sounds that came pulsing from the club’s now infamous speakers. It was through Tic he was signed to Young Turks, and also through him that he met Sampha, who is one of the key collaborators on the album and one half of the SBTRKT live show. Other key collaborators on the album are Roses Gabor, Jessie Ware, and Little Dragon. The album track “Wildfire” features the voice of Yukimi Nagano, who is the inimitable voice of Little Dragon. "I'm a big fan of their musical ethos, so to collaborate with them has been an ambition for a while. It has been really interesting seeing how our two worlds could co-exist.”
Through the years, and his development as an artist and producer in his own right, SBTRKT has worked with collaborators both sonic and visual to emphasize his ideas and vision. The performance and visual style has also become an essential part of this setup. Performing in his trademark tribal mask, watching SBTRKT translate his sound live is the opposite of what one would expect from the traditional producer/DJ. "The live show is an expansion of what has been created in the studio and the tools I've used to make them. Just because a song has been created with a laptop, it doesn't mean that is the best way to perform it live, but for me, neither is bringing in a 5 piece band to re-interpret your songs. I see live shows in a very different light to producing in a studio as it's about translating into a medium for performance. The basic setup is myself on an acoustic drum kit with extra electronic triggers, and Sampha on 2 keyboards and vocals.... although it's constantly developing whilst we learn new ways to perform songs and experiment with new ways to route our live audio."
Speaking about his mask, he explains, "...it reflects that in worldwide tribal societies that wearing a specific mask would evoke the spirit of an ancestor or animal, and is prominently used in ceremony and celebration. It’s about uplifting the soul and challenging the normality of electronic music and production.”
SBTRKT's debut album pulls off a series of impressive feats: it's bursting with fresh ideas, and yet it sounds immediately familiar. It's sound-patterns and rhythms can easily soundtrack the ecstatic hands in the air dance floor moments as well as reliving the monotony of the morning commute. Its influences are incorporated with subtlety and sophistication: dense enough to interpret, yet light enough to dance to.