SBTRKT Proves Masterful At Engineering Live Dance Music
By Robert Martin in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 27, 2014 9:00PM
Post-dubstep producer Aaron Jerome a.k.a. SBTRKT has always benefitted from a little company. Hidden behind a ceremonial tribal mask, Jerome has recruited everyone from Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano to Ezra Koenig and A$AP Ferg to provide the voice he will not to his music. With UK singer Sampha, SBTRKT found a perfect match that would characterize much of his full length debut and this year’s followup Wonder Where We Land. In 2012, the two toured together, creating one of the most unique live electronic shows we’ve ever seen. The pairing even produced a live record, a rarity in a genre that has immortalized the play button.
Knowing how well they work together, it was disappointing to see SBTRKT without his old partner at The Riviera last week. Yes, Sampha and Jerome function independent of one another. They have their own careers and would not tour forever, but there’s no denying the difference pre-recorded vocals make on this show. SBTRKT strives to make his performance more than a DJ set, and even without a live vocalist he succeeds.
Jerome’s stage setup is a dizzying array of keyboards laptops and synthesizers placed all around him. It’s good fun watching as he twists and contorts every way in order to keep track of it all as he loops, mixes, and reshapes his album cuts. Joining him on stage were a duo of live percussionists. One posted on a traditional drum kit and the other in control of an electronic beat pad. The addition of these two allows for some great moments and even a few improvisational jams like on “Right Thing To Do.” The trio stuck largely to SBTRKT’s self-titled debut over the new record. This decision possibly due to the record’s somewhat lukewarm critical reception, but it would've been nice to hear more of the material Jerome’s been working so hard on for the past three year.
Most impressive was the three-piece’s take on SBTRKT’s remix of Radiohead’s “Lotus Flower.” A track usually reserved for Jerome’s less involved DJ sets, he announced that he wanted to attempt it live. The result was something we've never witnessed an electronic act do before. The concept of a live remix is entirely unique and evidence of the forward thinking that has always put SBTRKT somewhere beyond “EDM.”