First Spin... SBTRKT's Wonder Where We Land
Producer Aaron Jerome, better known under the moniker of his production alter-ego, SBTRKT, released his self-titled debut in 2011 and it proved to be one of the year's freshest and most original releases. Next week he returns with his long-awaited follow-up, Wonder Where We Land.
The new album features some familiar faces, including Jessie Ware and regular collaborator Sampha. This time around there are even more collaborators on show, including Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and rising rapper A$AP Ferg among many others. So what can we expect from his sophomore effort?
We give the new album a spin and bring you our first impressions on all 15 tracks from Wonder Where We Land...
The album kicks off with a short and sweet blast of mangled, distorted organs and synth tweaks. A mere snippet lasting only a few seconds, and we're into the next track...
'Wonder Where We Land' (ft. Sampha)
Sampha makes the first of several appearances on the album, lending his trademark vocals to a track with a deep, rumbling bassline that builds gently with some piano chords over a gently pulsing drumbeat. Then SBTRKT really gets creative, chopping up and reversing the vocals, a sort of dub collage. It's another quite short track, but Sampha's vocals are full of soul and it sounds great.
When the bubbling synths of 'Lantern' arrive we're almost into hardcore rave territory, but then the beat drops and takes the track somewhere else entirely – imagine Kraftwerk's more recent output underpinned by a trap beat and you're in the ballpark, but there's a playful feel to it too. Occasionally the synths give way to harp glissandos and delicate music box sounds before the beat and the synths come crashing back in. At just two minutes long, it makes the previous track seem like a bit of an epic.
'Higher' (ft. Raury)
As we move into 'Higher' we find guest Raury rapping over a ticking hi-hat rhythm and another slow, trap-style beat, before swelling into a huge chorus with a Mellotron choir kind of thing filling the space between the vocals and the sparse drums. It's the most likely so far to end up stuck in our heads.
A short interlude before the next track proper and it's a bit of a sound clash – there's a tolling bell, some strings and what sounds like a boat leaving a harbour. It's a pretty full-on 23 seconds of auditory chaos that reminds us a bit of the closing moments of the Beatles' 'Day in the Life'.
'Look Away' (ft. Caroline Polachek)
There's a bit of an Eastern vibe to the intro of 'Look Away', with its slightly off-kilter beat staggering away while Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek's swooping melody features the lyrics “look away / she was never yours for the having”. There's some interesting vocal manipulation happening in the chorus too, before the track segues into 'Osea'.
Osea (ft. Koreless)
Featuring the young, up-and-coming Glaswegian producer Koreless, 'Osea' is a slice of dreamy electronica that's as lush as it is expansive. A completely instrumental track, there's no real beat to speak of. Instead what we've got here is a little over two and a half minutes of melodic soundscaping. It's lovely.
Temporary View (ft. Sampha)
Sampha's back, and so are those gorgeous, inviting hook melodies that populated so much of SBTRKT's eponymous debut. It's been playing on the airwaves for a few weeks already now, but we still love it and it's one of the standout tracks on the album.
NEW DORP. NEW YORK (ft. Ezra Koenig)
Another track that's had plenty of airplay in recent weeks, this tune featuring Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig on vocal duties sees the singer lending his unique voice to a track with a pounding, four-to-the-floor beat, with some of the best lyrics the album has to offer: 'My girl's got a limousine / got a full-time job just to keep it clean / got a speaker in the trunk, you know, it weighs a ton...”
This is definitely one of our favourite moments on the new album.
Kicking off with some jazzy electric piano chords, the stuttering beat of 'Everybody Knows' is in stark contrast to the previous track, it's a chilled kind of house track that would be well suited to soundtracking one of the famous sunsets at Cafe del Mar. It feels shorter than its three and a half minute runtime, but we liked it so much we went back for another listen.
'Problem Solved' (ft. Jessie Ware)
Singer Jessie Ware got one of her first breaks when featuring on SBTRKT's debut after meeting Sampha while she was touring as a backing vocalist with Jack Penate, going on to feature an another of the most exciting debuts in recent years, Disclosure's Settle.
She returns on 'Problem Solved' and it makes for one of the most interesting cuts on the new record, with its slow beat and jazzy piano chops providing a beautifully mellow backdrop for Ware's lush but understated vocals.
'If It Happens' (ft. Sampha)
Another shift of gear on what is shaping to up to be a restless and very expansive album, with Sampha once again back to provide vocals on this slice of piano-led soul. It's stripped back and has a wonderful vulnerability to it, and it's another example of the scope on offer here.
'Gon Stay' (ft. Sampha)
Probably the closest to the sound on SBTRKT's debut, it's another catchy hook propelled along by a garage-style beat and Sampha's soaring voice. It's another highlight on the LP and one with single potential.
'The Light' (ft. Denai Moore)
Denai Moore brings her vocal talents to Wonder Where We Land's penultimate track and it's yet another of those memorable hooks that threatens to stay lodged in your head for days to come.
'Voices In My Head' (ft. A$AP Ferg)
The album's closing salvo features some rolling, stuttering acoustic drums which underpin a track that features rapper A$AP Ferg spilling his stream of consciousness lyrics about being under the influence over a tapestry of synths, keys and ethereal backing vocals, with even some jazzy piano licks dropped in there for good measure. It's a great way to close what is, overall, a really impressive sophomore effort from one of the most unique producers around right now.