Album Review: SBTRKT – SBTRKT




The year 2011 has been bounteous in terms of great records from established acts, and we’re only a little past the halfway mark. But when it comes to debut releases by lesser-knowns, it’s been a little sparse.

So, the self-titled debut of lesser-known Young Turks beat prodigy SBTRKT is a welcome sight. Arguably one of the strongest debuts of the year, the album is tough to classify. As it moves through its 11 tracks, it stops in for a visit in almost a half-dozen genres.

Album opener “Heatwave” could easily be a Brainfeeder cut, with its chirps, complex rhythms, and layers of vocal sampling, and the album could stick to that sound for the remainder of its run time, but it does anything but. The very next track, “Hold On”, is a complete paradigm shift, featuring a steady melody and the post-dub vocals of Sampa, a fellow Young Turks labelmate. (Sampa is featured heavily on the album along with other Young Turk guest vocalists Jessie Ware and Rose Gabor.) And just when you think “Hold On” is going to be the best track of the album, the blistering electro-pop of “Wildfire” comes out of left field with its pop-savvy swagger and potent vocals from Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano and blows the last two out of the water.

The album never quite reaches the grandeur of “Wildfire” again, but the remaining eight tracks (minus one or two) are absolutely something to write home about. The Sampa-featuring “Trials of the Past”, the Jesse Ware-featuring “Right Thing to Do”, and the Rose Gabor disco throwback “Pharaohs” are all equally enthralling, and the instrumental tracks by SBTRKT are just as good.

And while logically such vast variation should produce a choppy outcome, the album proves to be quite fluid on the whole. It maintains an ever-so-perfect pace throughout, fraught with big beats, catchy choruses, and smooth textures, making it one of this year’s finest debuts by far.

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