Starting his set on a Monday night at The Independent, SBTRKT came to stage with ultimate anonymity. Wearing a tribal mask covering half of his face, this London-based artist did not want the audience to focus on appearances but the music as a whole. His conceptualized persona in both his music and image already set the tone for the whirlwind set we would soon experience.
With several instruments at their disposal, SBTRKT managed to invoke a simultaneous conjunction between dubstep, R&B and electronica with ease, firmly executing many songs from his recent, self-titled album. Songs like “Wildfire,” “Pharaohs,” “Something Goes Right” and “Trials of the Past” were definite highlights of the night and visibly validated through the audience’s delighted expressions and free flowing arm movements. The sexy, beat-driven songs were jam-packed with highs and lows but the dance breakdowns were a collectively favored element that many enjoyed.
At this show SBTRKT, born Aaron Jerome, revealed that his sonics and arrangements that seem breezy to the naked ear, proved to be hard work. Crammed to his left was a laptop and several manipulators, from which he fiddled with frequently to lay the foundation of his performance. However, the drum set in front of him was where his energy was devoted to the majority of the show. The percussion, which he pummeled with crisp precision throughout the course of his set, was orchestrated to perfection with hybridized and generated synth during the moments when you needed that commanding mid-song breakdown.
As if Jerome’s ambitious style and powerful drum n’ bass wasn’t enough for a substance-induced audience, the vocal stylings of Sampha flawlessly enhanced each track with more soul and power than I ever could have expected. Donning a complementary mask and adding his robust vocal flourishes while playing two keyboards, Sampha sang on just about every track throughout the show. His voice combined with Jerome’s minimalist ethos, only added more texture and emotions to an already kickass performance.
Overall the set was a great triumph for the two UK natives, and although Drake did not make a surprise appearance during “Wildfire,” I can only assume that these guys will undoubtedly be taking the electronic music-loving world by storm. Aside from all of the bright lights and heavy machinery, we, the audience, were able to catch a glimpse into what’s behind those enigmatic tribal masks; two badass artists laying down some sonically dope beats and getting dance parties started all across the globe.