Since setting out on his musical journey as SBTRKT Aaron Jerome has given few interviews in order to make sure that his music – as opposed to his personality – remains the focus and his moniker actually relates to him taking himself out of the equation. In concert he remains behind his signature mask and on record he is known for bringing in guest vocalists to do the talking for him. But it is undoubtedly the music he creates which always speaks loudest and never has that been truer than on this, his second record Wonder Where We Land.
Things are darker here, that much is obvious. The more standard pop songs from SBTRKT’s self-titled debut – ‘Hold On’ ‘Wildfire’ ‘Right Thing To Do’ – have been eschewed in favour of a colder and sometimes eerie tone which sounds like the descent into a rather evil trip. ‘Day 1’s short rush of sound introduces the album only to be interrupted by the low bass of the title-track which sees unofficial second member Sampha make the first of four appearances as a wall of beeps and glitches swirl around him. Previous collaborator Jessie Ware also returns for the shape-shifting ‘Problem (Solved)’ but Jerome also introduces several new voices into his project, headlined by Vampire Weekend’s indie pin-up Ezra Koenig who struts across ‘New Dorp. New York’ with a cool swagger not before seen from him. Perhaps more so than on any other track here, the lyrics are given room to shine as Koenig’s clever wordplay pairs up with playful bass and rattling percussion to paint a colourful picture of the city that never sleeps.
Jerome breezes through genres and styles with reckless abandon as Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek chants over the post-dubstep pitter-patter of ‘Look Away’, Sampha tackles the odd funk jaunt of ‘Gon Stay’ and ‘Higher’ showcases up and newcomer Raury’s relentless flow. Jerome’s instrumental pieces also provide trance and house touches to an album that sure ain’t lacking in variety but he -perhaps even more impressively – ensures that the transitions between tracks never come across as too coarse. Closing things off is ‘Voices In My Head’ which finds A$AP Ferg stumbling over a sinister piano sequence while babbling on about how messed up he is as Warpaint’s Emily Kokal wails away. It probably shouldn’t work on paper but it’s the strongest cut here.
Wonder Where We Land finds a talented producer who, while not quite yet at the peak of his powers, has crafted a wonderfully unique album nonetheless. At times, some songs can almost feel a bit aimless but that’s surely only part of the gag on an album named such as this.