Aaron Jerome aka SBTRKT, is a private figure, which I admire. I’ve always preferred artists to keep a low profile, allowing me to get to know them through their music; after all, it is an extension of themselves. While he does have frequent collaborators, the most consistent being Sampha, the project is largely his own. When SBTRKT first showed up on the scene it took me a second to realize it wasn’t MSTRKRFT. Not because their music is the same (it isn’t) but because of their mutual distaste for vowels and their shared love of caps lock. Since that momentary confusion it’s now easy to decipher between the two considering I greatly prefer SBTRKT’s style. Though I will give a quick shoutout to MSTRKRFT’s remix of Metric’s “Monster Hospital.” It will forever be one of my favorite tracks. I don’t know how it isn’t more popular, if that thing dropped today people would lose their minds! Moving on. Next paragraph!
SBTRKT just released some new material, which…I guess is pretty obvious considering I’m writing about it. I say new material because despite the eight tracks being packaged together, and that package having a title, SBTRKT has described it as a “collection of songs” rather than an album or an EP. Instead of putting together a fully formed record, he has decided to release music as it comes to him, making it more of an ongoing process, putting out a steady-ish stream of songs. For some artists this wouldn’t work, but I actually like the idea here. It will be a consistent insight into what he’s feeling, letting us track his musical and emotional process as it flows through him. It will be interesting to see how he progresses over time. Because of this, similarly to how I handled Kendrick’s release earlier this month, I will take it in on a song to song basis, instead of a cohesive piece of work.
In the past he’s relied on, or rather used, collaborations with other artists to create tracks that are combinations of both their styles; jamming together until an idea grew from it, and then taking that idea to forge a song. He did things a little different with SAVE YOURSELF. This time he carried set ideas going in, and worked with artists who he thought could assist in his already defined vision. Much like Kendrick’s release, the songs do have a natural flow, despite not being created to complement each other consecutively. The overall feel is more relaxed, as his electronic sound is more or less dominated with elements of R&B and chillwave. One thing I noticed was the restraint SBTRKT sports when he’s building the track. On “GOOD MORNING” he waits patiently until almost the three minute mark to let the beat kick in and it’s perfect. It's strengthened further by the fact that, even without that addition, the track still would have been great. Electric artists often rely on the strength of their drop or hook, rushing to get you to that point, so it’s nice to see an artist instead rely on the strength of their sound in general and not specific parts of it. As far as the rest of the compilation, every track is good: “READY OR NOT” is a major groove, “LET THEM IN” feels like a lost Massive Attack song, Mabel kills it on “I FEEL YOUR PAIN,” Sampha is strong as always on “TBD” and The Dream, who features on three tracks, sets the bar with the smooth closer, “BURY YOU.” Seriously, every song. And because of his new process/ stance on releasing music (which you can read about on his website here) I can all but guarantee this isn’t the last we see of SBTRKT in 2016, which is good news for all of us.