With more guest appearances than Paris Hilton’s paid-appearance party schedule in an average summer, SBTRKT’s debut self-titled album was responsible for establishing important new names like Sampha, Jessie Ware, Little Dragon, and Aaron Jerome himself, in the music world. For people of a certain age, it’s a hugely nostalgic album, too; one that brings back memories of dancing to ‘Wildfire’ in packed out, sweaty, beer-stinking tents at festivals for the first time.
Aaron Jerome is something of a maestro when it comes to sampling different genres. Not much has changed on ‘Wonder Where We Land’ in this respect – Jerome’s hands are constantly snatching at multiple influences like he’s been given five minutes to cram down dishes in an all you can eat tapas bar. He’s also got a talent for selecting the right guests to help him out. Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig is the perfect match for the strange, jittering jazz-beat backing of stand-out ‘NEW DORP. NEW YORK’, while Denai Moore brings liberal helpings of soul to stuttering ‘The Light’. Then there’s A$AP Ferg, who pulls the curtains shut on ‘Wonder Where We Land’ with paranoid, tumbling vocal dexterity. It’s the strongest ending imaginable for a blindingly brilliant album.
To be incredibly picky, there are a few moments that don’t quite mesh together, although these can be counted on one hand, and the occasional weak spots only highlight the extraordinarily high bar that ‘Wonder Where We Land’ sets as a whole. Caroline Polachek, of Chairlift fame, is responsible for one of the best vocal hooks, but ‘Look Away’ seems a little hesitant and muddied in contrast to the decisive forward drive of the rest of the album. The first two tracks feel a little vague and meandering, too, but bloody hell, once SBTRKT hits his stride, he lands and hits the ground running.
‘SBTRKT’ shines as a debut because it has a cohesive, singular, and instantly recognisable aesthetic, built out of crisp, clean production, and a subtle touch of experiment. ‘Wonder Where We Land’ lives up to its name, because picking a track from it at random is like lobbing a welly at a world map and deciding to fly to wherever its trajectory takes it on a whim. It’s a record that isn’t afraid to transition from the macabre piano-jaunt of Jessie Ware’s guest spot on ‘Problem Solved’, straight into Sampha ballad-special ‘If It Happens’. It’s a far braver album than his debut. Chaotic, experimental, but oddly refined, it looks like Aaron Jerome has released one of 2014’s most exciting albums.