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5 Underrated SBTRKT Songs

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A frequent collaborator with highly rated artist Sampha, SBTRKT is a weird and wonky producer who’s been wrongly dismissed since his breakout moment in 2011.

A musical pseudonym of lead producer Aaron Jerome, SBTRKT has remixed and toured with the likes of Radiohead, M.I.A, Basement Jaxx and Mark Ronson. A synth-wizard of epic proportions, SBTRKT has the ability to blend samples and create writhing basslines with ingenuity and inventive flare. Cultivating the perfect backdrop for Sampha’s silky-smooth vocals is no mean feat, and SBTRKT certainly doesn’t disappoint.

SBTRKT rose to the charts with 2011 wunderkind ‘Wildfire’, featuring Little Dragon. Played incessantly across festival stages, in nightclubs, hidden house parties and through crappy £20 speakers in teenagers’ back gardens. Its flavoursome downtempo groove instantly struck a chord, even tempting Drake to create his own OVO remix later that year. ‘Wildfire’ sat comfortably in SBTRKT’s self-titled album, between fellow prodigies ‘Hold On’ and ‘Pharaohs’, which was penned as a bold move from dubstep to accessible pop. 

But there’s more to SBTRKT than just “that one song everyone played a few years ago”. If you’ve got a penchant for deliciously weird, non-linear electronica then feast your ears on these little jewels that might’ve slipped under your radar.

Never Never, feat. Sampha

SBTRKT doesn’t do album fillers. ‘Never, Never’ from his most famous self-titled album is a masterpiece, professionally executed for the late evening summer festival vibe. The track is introduced by a melodic percussive riff but quickly cut short by reverbing hand claps. Swelling synthesizers and understated drums support Sampha’s bewitching lyrics (“You can’t help, can’t help where your mind goes / So let’s harvest on the moon with the autumn snow”) which intertwine wonderfully with SBTRKT’s unique brand of electronica.

'War Drums' ft. Warpaint, Wonder Where We Land (2014)

Opening to a Grimes-era, floating-in-space vocal warble, ‘War Drums’ is a beautiful mish-mash of percussion and electronic. The track stops and starts like a spaceship engine, allowing room for the steady, interspersed vocals of indie rock champions Warpaint. Ethereal, spell-binding and minimalist, ‘War Drums’ defies the expectations of its title to give listeners a small glimpse into SBTRKT’s enthralling vision.

'Higher' ft. Raury, Wonder Where We Land (2014)

Bursting at the seams with majestic R&B goodness, ‘Higher’ has serious melancholic bite. Fluttering keyboards and precise drums bolster Raury’s slick flow, from which he never seems to pause for a breath. Long, quavering notes hover above the young rapper’s lyrics: “Like I’m MLK, I’m speaking out against the segregation / I can make it through the gate and open it for all my brethren”. Overshadowed by his collaboration with Ezra Koenig ‘NEW DORP. NEW YORK’, ‘Higher’ pushed some much-needed, unconventional R&B into the spotlight.

'BURY YOU' ft. The-Dream, SAVE YOURSELF (2016)

Coco butter-smooth vocals from The-Dream could easily be mistaken for The Weeknd in this slow burner from SBTRKT’s latest piece of work SAVE YOURSELF. Shuddering samples and layered keyboards set an other-wordly scene for this track; if you squeeze your eyes tight enough, you can see Sandra Bullock floating past Earth in a spacesuit. The tempo judders to a halt in the mid-end section, slowly resting us back with two feet on solid ground. 

'Hide or Seek', Step In Shadows (2010)

A year prior to the release of his self-titled album, SBTRKT played around with dubstep, orchestral strings, and slithers of house. ‘Hide or Seek’ from his 2010 EP Step in Shadows is a weird and wonderful mix of all of the above; deep, reverbing samples not dissimilar to frogs croaking split apart the melodic string sections, throwing deep, dirty house shade on the entire experience. Fit for mixing, melting and molding, it has the potential for real greatness at the hands of a pristine sound system.

While SBTRKT may not warm the cockles of every music critics’ heart, we shouldn’t degrade his ability to bend and twist genres to suit his vocalists' needs. His sound is an extension of bass culture, but certainly doesn’t rely on it. Working closely with beautiful vocalists like Sampha, Jessie Ware, Little Dragon and Warpaint, SBTRKT makes his music accessible to the masses but also proves his worth as a dynamic and supportive producer. By operating as the Robin to the Top 10's Batmen and Catwomen, SBTRKT has opened the doors to his music and made himself, well, chart-friendly, if you will.

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