London producer SBTRKT has released his new album Wonder Where We Land today and the title alone leaves a lot up in the air. We’ve heard a bunch of songs from the album but none of them have really given us a huge clue as to the overall direction of the album. We’ve spent the whole week with the album, much of it in the air, but now we’ve finally landed in a land of jazz-infused beats, twists and turns and soulful vocals. We were left a little lost for words so instead we made variations of the SBTRKT mask as a way of reviewing the album…and then we found our words again so we added some for your convenience.
Wonder Where We Land (Ft. Sampha)
Indeed. SBTRKT’s debut album etched out such an iconic sound, there was always a question above what we would get. With gentle taps, sporadic keys and Sampha up front, this is the SBTRKT we’ve always known, however there’s always that hovering doubt of where he’s going to take the rest of the record.
And this is where we land – right in the heart of an 8-bit world built upon strobing synths and J-pop beats, all the while a lurking atmosphere creeps up behind you. Three songs in and the darkness has been present in each. SBTRKT’s always been a producer who’s beautifully soundtracked the move from the club to the home and it’s no different here.
Higher (Ft. Raury)
Raury is the most hyped young-gun on the album and he’s been recruited to help take the album to church. While Raury’s rap rolls off the tongue as quick as liquor slides over it, it’s all about that luminous chorus. Raise your hands to the air child, you have been saved.
Look Away (Ft. Caroline Polachek)
While the darkness hovers throughout the album, it completely floods this track. Caroline Polachek’s heighty vocals are haunting and over-kilter throughout with an unsettling piano, enticing you to look. Polacheck brings a hip-hop flavour to the verses in what is an altogether odd but wonderfully successful detour for SBTRKT.
Temporary View (Ft. Sampha)
Sampha pops up four times on the album, but this one is the most similar to his contributions on the debut. It’s soulful, minimal and glittering but it really adds nothing to an album that thrives on moments of oddity. Following Look Away, this one centres you once again, making you comfortable but not excited.
NEW DORP. NEW YORK. (Ft. Ezra Koenig)
Who better than to sing on an anthem about New York than Ezra Keonig? Alicia Keys did well and we tip our hat to her but Koenig embodies that sleek, socialite side of New York. Meanwhile, SBTRKT drops his most out of the box beat, oscillating between indie pop and jangling, warehouse electronica. SBTRKT knows, if he can make it here, he’ll make it anywhere.
This one takes us straight into the heart of London. It’s grimey and the most intricate track on the album- a tribute to Jamie xx and those who spin beats on rooftops with a rare glimpse of London sunshine. There’s jilted keys, a throbbing beat and a hesitance that says “don’t dance, look cool”.
Problem Solved (Ft. Jessie Ware)
Jessie Ware also collaborated with SBTRKT on his debut and she’s back her as a fully fledged star. With her new found stardom she could’ve easily overshone SBTRKT but she delivers a beautifully understated vocal over a jazz-infused beat. This pairing feels completely naturally and as such it’s the most effortless track on the album.
If It Happens (ft. Sampha)
Sampha is in the blinding spotlight here, with SBTRKT taking a backseat allowing Sampha to sing like a love-lorn singer in a smokey jazz club. It’s a well-deserved breather and a warming track – an example of how SBTRKT can succeed with simplicity.
Gon Stay (ft. Sampha)
It’s Sampha hour now and he’s cheered up a bit since the last track. For the first time, there’s no sign of that looming darkness – it’s full sunshine delivered through funky bass and a perky snare. It’s more indie-pop than London electronica but we’ll take it as a welcome flood of light into an otherwise shadowy album.
The Light (Ft. Denai Moore)
It’s perhaps ironic that the light disappears on a song titled after it. Upcoming London songstress Denai Moore steps up on this heart-wrenching track. “Tell me I’m not the only one,” Moore sings sounding completely devoid of any more energy. At the same time, SBTRKT keeps upping the density of the track ending right in the thick of swelling emotion.
Voices In My Head (Ft. A$AP FERG)
It may take until the final track but here it all comes together. SBTRKT’s penchant for live instrumentation melds perfectly with his signature beats and the unsettling keys create an odd yet followable melody. A$AP Ferg’s rap is so full of character and woozy that you almost forget how batshit weird the whole thing is. If weird is the flavour of the album, then this track is the best indication that SBTRKT can pull it off with the utmost style.