SBTRKT’s early releases, such as LAIKA, and the surrounding post-dubstep aesthetic he was associated with came at the perfect time at the end of the 00’s. As the sounds of dubstep were progressively becoming heavier to the point where they were no longer listenable, a number of artists were pushing the sound in different directions; whether that was the more techno oriented productions of the likes of Scuba or Headhunter or the melody based electronica of SBTRKT and James Blake. I have been an avid follower of SBTRKT since then and although his sound and production have shifted slightly, he still retains his ability to produce uplifting pop-infused electronica infused with the essence of dubstep, as showcased on his recent sophomore album ‘Wonder Where We Land’.
In support, two album collaborators were enlisted, the first of which to take the stage was Raury. The eighteen year old, who hails from Atlanta, was a true surprise, though I’m not sure yet whether this was good or otherwise. Having only heard his SBTRKT collaboration, I assumed he was predominantly a rapper but how wrong I was. His sound was much heavier and featured a guitarist and bassist who could easily have been transplanted from a metal band. Having since listened to some of the songs he played on the night, I have to say that I prefer the recorded versions where these heavy elements aren’t featured. However, Raury definitely remains a talent to watch for the future.
Denai Moore, on the other hand, was much closer to my expectations and gave a stunning performance to a crowd who didn’t seem interested. Utilising a variety of guitars, keyboards and synths throughout her performance, she showed great versatility of skills and range of styles. A quick rendition of ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’ by Kendrick Lamar before launching into one of her own songs got a warm response but the highlight for me was the singers penultimate song which featured soaring vocals and atmospherics.
In the half hour between Denai finishing and SBTRKT taking to the stage, progressively more gear was unveiled on stage; amplifying the excitement. When he finally took to the stage, there was a surge of people and excitement. He started out with the electronic noodling of ‘Paper Cuts’ before moving onto the first sing along of the evening; ‘Never Never’. Mr Jerome then took us on an exploration of a the diversity of his back catalogue featuring tracks from both albums, as well as a couple from the EPs in between.
As is now inevitable with live performances of electronic music, he got the handheld cowbell out and got the crowd dancing in glee. Particular highlights came when the original tracks were drawn out and edited. The Little Dragon featuring ‘Wildfire’, which is one of his stand out productions anyway, benefited heavily from this as he chopped up the vocals.
Although I maybe should have guessed this in advance, one thing which took me by surprise was the age of the crowd; the majority of those present looked to be 18 or under. Perhaps the show had become an unofficial part of the freshers programme of the local universities. This aspect of the crowd led to plenty of pushing, attempted circle pits and girls screaming the lyrics to each other then standing still during instrumental sections. Ignoring this, however, there was little fault to be found in the music. Whether sticking to the sounds as produced on his record or esoterically riffing on these ideas, he is a stylish musician who never fails to draw in a crowd.
Written by Andy Brennan