Sbtrkt (Aka Aaron Jerome) is truly an enigma. The UK artist first gained success remixing tracks by M.I.A,
Modeselektor, Basement Jaxx, and Radiohead, leading him to release his self-titled studio album in 2011.
Sporting native ceremonial masks on stage adds to Sbtrkt’s incognito persona and sphinxlike style,
preserving the concept of removing identity to give freedom to the music. While anonymity is the intent, it is
difficult to ignore the various singers who collaborate with Sbtrkt on both the debut and newest album,
‘Wonder Where We Land’, including Ezra Koenig, Jessie Ware, Caroline Polachek, and Yukimi Nagano of
Having seen a solo set in the past, we were surprised by the wide array of instruments, synths, and percussion
tools on stage and were eager to experience the bass-heavy, electronic rhythms translate into live
instrumentation. The lights dimmed, the crowd condensed, and out emerged the familiar vibraphone melody
of “Hold On”, followed by steady percussion from James Holdom and soulful Sampha vocals.
While the focus on live rhythms felt unfamiliar at first, the trio harmonized well together to recreate the
complex beats and progressions of Sbtrkt’s signature work. Among the classic tracks, “Wildfire” of course,
received the largest response as the trio built up anticipation through the catchy live edits of Yukimi
Nagano’s vocals before flooring the crowd. Nagano’s vocals, twitched and skipped over heavy synths, and provided a new perspective on the familiar breakout track.
The energy on stage reached massive heights as “New Dorp. New York.” began, where we watched intently,
unsure of how a live band would be able to pull off such a monstrous track. Seeing Jerome contribute the
dark, deep vocals over Ezra Koenig’s sampling and Sampha bouncing from one percussion tool to the next,
it was stunning to watch the track come alive in a unique way. However, not every track that was missing a
vocalist was left to samples as we got to see Sampha take on Denai Moore’s “The Light”, which again took its own shimmering shape from the studio release.
Without a doubt the best part of this performance was during the encore where Sbtrkt is known to play his
classic radiohead cover of “Lotus Flower”. Although it appeared that the group had decided to change things
up a bit and cover another favorite Radiohead song– “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi”. Riding on a totally different vibe
than expected, the trio churned out the whimsical melody perfectly with Sampha reciting lyrics as passionately as Thom Yorke himself.
Sbtrkt’s performance on Sunday was a testament of the group’s musical capability. As it has become
increasingly prevalent for electronic musicians to incorporate live dynamics to their performances, very few
have the ability to succeed without missing the mark in some aspect. What made this performance unique
was the band’s ability to recreate the structure of every track while retaining the cachet of a live show. In
doing so, all artists present were able to undermine identity and let the music speak.
[Photos by DS Photography]
[Article by Neema Kashi]
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