Tag Archives: Aaron Jerome

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SBTRKT Captivates Terminal 5

October 28th, 2014

SBTRKT – Terminal 5 – October 27, 2014

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

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg

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SBTRKT Proves He Belongs

April 4th, 2012

SBTRKT – Webster Hall – April 3, 2012

(Photo: Jared Levy)

SBTRKT isn’t interested in the question of identity. He avoids it all together. A semicircular tribal mask covers the top half of his face, protruding forward. It shifts in relation to the movements of his head. It’s a layer of protection, although seemingly unnecessary. The name is actually the alias of UK producer Aaron Jerome. He explained last night at Webster Hall that the mask and the anonymity of the pseudonym are used because “I’d rather not talk about myself as a person, and let the music speak for itself.” Which is what he did, and in the process proved that SBTRKT belongs in the company of electronic music’s most acclaimed artists.

The music speaks with immediacy, but it’s not as easily categorized. On his eponymously titled debut, the songs touch on a number of genres: electronic, dubstep, soul and house. But when played live, the distinctions are meaningless. With the assistance of frequent collaborator Sampha, the two splayed the album onto the crowd. Jerome was constantly in motion—programming, adjusting and, presumably, improvising sections of electronic layers. He also added live drumming. Snare hits skittered across a broad pond of bass. Sampha’s voice, somewhere between James Blake’s without the puberty cracks and Antony’s without the pomp, wailed from below the depths. It felt natural until you realized that each sound filtered through many 1’s and 0’s and heavy amplification.

But the strength of the performance was in the immediacy of the arrangements. From show and album opener “Heatwave” to Sampha’s strong offerings of “Something Goes Right” and “Trials of the Past,” each song felt denser while remaining as approachable and fundamentally the same. Sampha rhetorically asked, “What would you like to hear?” midway through the set. The crowd responded in full, with multiple answers leading to auditory mush. The pair ended up playing a remix of “Wildfire” featuring Drake. This seemed to be the right answer. But SBTRKT’s choices, questionable as they may be, all seem to be the right answer, for himself and for his fans. —Jared Levy