On his self-titled debut, SBTRKT perfected the balance between presenting a platter of authentic R ‘n’ B sounds, with a slight twist courtesy of his innovative production. It’s for this very reason that the record, which was released back in 2011, still sounds fresh today. Fast forward three years, and the masked producer has set his sights on doing the same, with Wonder Where We Land.
A quick look at the album’s track listing, and it’s evident that SBTRKT–real name Aaron Jerome–felt the need to expand his repertoire by experimenting with a wider range of artists. Whilst long-time collaborator Sampha (who recently worked on Drake’s Nothing Was the Same) once again features heavily on the record, and fellow label mate Jessie Ware lends her immaculate vocals to “Problem (Solved)“, the rest of the features intrigue, and are sure to raise a few eyebrows. A rather surprising, yet fascinating inclusion would have to be “NEW DORP. NEW YORK“, the LP’s lead single which features vocals from Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig. As the persistent bass thuds away, Ezra’s eccentric vocals, backed up by London singer Wilsen, traipse across the sweet electronics in an ode to New York. Yet, lines like “I got a baseball bat, never hit home runs” and “Gargoyles gargling oil” dampen the track’s overall spirit as the wit is both unexpected and unclear.
Elsewhere on the record, the likes of A$AP Ferg and rising star Raury bring their respective hip-hop influences. Raury’s quick-fire delivery on “Higher” breezes past the hard-hitting drums and teetering synths as Ferg ponders over the loss of his father on closing track “Voices In My Head” (which also features Warpaint) over a woozy soundscape. In both tracks, we hear the rappers address their past; but where the former flows without a hitch, the latter’s fragmented thoughts are mirrored by the disjointed soundscape.
On the title-track, Sampha’s impeccably poignant vocals resonate with immense clarity over the reverbed bass and layered electronics, and youngster Denai Moore’s soft intonations enchant in “The Light.” Yet, they find themselves drowned out by track’s either preceding or succeeding them. Caroline Polachek‘s feature on “Look Away” remains the album’s most experimental; its cacophonous instrumentation is all over the place.
Similarly, the instrumental fillers “Day 5” and “Osea” don’t seem to fit properly in the overall context of the record. The attempt at transitioning from one track to another comes across as almost forced. Despite the oddities dotted around the LP, Wonder Where We Land certainly has its moments of glory and, without a doubt, is a strong collection of songs.