Kieran Rates: Sbtrkt – 'wildfire'
My childhood was not one of diverse music genres. I grew up listening to my mother’s Motown CD collection, and then I moved on to R&B and hip-hop in my teens (mostly Ja Rule). As a result, I was firmly of the belief that to sound emotional, or to gauge a soulful reaction, you had to have a 4/4 beat and a diva fist-punching the air and tip-toeing towards those high notes to make you feel something. As my tastes have developed, one of the lessons I will pass on to my children is that electronica can be as melancholy a genre, as any, and skipped beats, stripped back vocals and jerky pauses can reduce a grown woman to tears.
SBTRKT (pronounced 'Subtract') is the most recent thing I’ve heard that has made me feel this way – and for that, he gets this week. The man behind the trademark tribal mask is Aaron James, who began his journey at the infamous east London club 'Plastic People' – which houses bassy, sweat-filled raves, and is often hailed as one of the early homes of dubstep (and some of the worst toilets everrr). SBTRKT has since remixed everything from Mode Selector to M.I.A., and recently, Drake remixed it. Drake KNOWS!
‘Widlfire’ is the standout track from the self-titled album, which is out now, and features vocals from Yukimi Nagamo of Little Dragon fame. It is one of the best sing-a-long dance tracks I’ve heard for a while coming out of the post-dubstep camp. Where the likes of Katy B and La Roux have been sampled to death with their up-tempo pop voices, Yukimi has a certain quirky quality to her soulful, playful and catchy as hell voice, over the head-bobbing bass in 'Wildfire'.
The warped sounds and well placed pauses give the whole track a sense of fun, far more on the side of a soulful piece of work, which can be a hard thing to achieve for electronica, but the whole thing sounds emotive somehow and I love it. Really, the whole album is worth a listen, (my other favourite is 'Hold On') but this really is very good.
SBTRKT told me: "I’ve been creating and making these tracks over a year or so, it’s kind of strange to think people now listen to that in 40 minutes of music. I’m really happy with the balance of tracks and the collaborators I worked with on it. I don’t really think it [the track] fits anywhere. I don’t really come from any particular scene. I just write what I feel like. It’s soul, electronic, genreless stuff and it’s more about mood for me than specific melodic makeup or patterns that make up genres."
So damn soulful! SBTRKT, I salute you.
SBTRKT: 'Wildfire' - is out now.
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Words: Kieran Yates (@Kieran_Yates)
Online editing: Joseph 'JP' Patterson (@Jpizzledizzle)