SBTRKT – Terminal 5 – October 27, 2014
Restrained energy perhaps best describes the music the captivated Terminal 5 crowd witnessed last night courtesy of SBTRKT. It was constructed much in the way a wave rolls into its crest, with deliberate forward motion and then unfurling, tumbling over itself as it cascades onto the shore. As if stepping out of a spacecraft wearing his trademark tribal mask, the phantom of electro-soul opera expressed his sonic salutation to the New York City earthlings, greeting them in a convivial British manner along with his strobed-out laser-splashed music from somewhere just outside the stratosphere.
What came across straight away was that SBTRKT commands his own instruments—
and consequently the crowd—deliberately building each movement of a neo-funk symphony through orchestration, elevating each piece to its climactic flourish, adding layer upon layer of percussion loops, further propelled by the accents of the drummer and keyboardist who accompanied him. Just after the first movement, SBRTKT gauged the audience’s temperature, checking to see if everyone was ready to be swept up in his momentous arrangements.
SBTRKT creates epic, soulful soundscapes that hearken back to ’90s R&B that he accentuates with jungle beats and dubstep, and he recruits a diverse assembly of crooners to emphasize his dynamic compositions in the process—a few of whom landed with him last night. This mixture of style and form is most comparable to his American contemporary, Flying Lotus, yet SBTRKT’s individuality is unmistakable, and he demonstrated with reserved confidence why his appeal is expanding. Dancing between his surrounding soundboards and keyboards while eluding the laser beams shooting from the stage behind him, SBTRKT put on a performance that left its intended mark, before jumping back into his spacecraft to look for the next destination and bring new life to the contemporary-music environment. —Charles Steinberg