Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Breaking Out: SBTRKT


October 2011

For someone who wants to stay hidden, SBTRKT (pronounced "subtract") has a hard time staying in the shadows. The mask-wearing DJ-producer won't confirm his real name (reportedly Aaron Jerome), age, or talk about his musical background, but he has shared a stage with Drake, been tapped for remixes by Radiohead and Mark Ronson, and will be headlining a U.S. tour that launches this month. A little 
secrecy, it seems, can go a long way.

"SBTRKT is essentially about getting away from the idea that you have to talk about your music to show what it's about," explains the London resident. "For me, it was more about creating music and letting it work on its own merits -- not having to go out and say, 'I am the person behind 
this, this is where I was born, and 
this is why I make what I do.' "

Good thing his music speaks for 
itself. SBTRKT's eponymous Young Turks debut puts a sleek pop slant on dubstep, garage, and 2-step. Closer to the futuristic singer-songwriter music of fellow Brit James Blake than straight-up club fare, the album leans hard on the airy croon of U.K. soul singer Sampha, who also joins in for his boss' free-flowing shows, during which the masked man pounds a drum kit. "It can all go wrong," admits SBTRKT about embracing the unpredictability of playing live, "but it can all go right as well." Like when Drake joined the band for a Toronto performance. ("He just came and jammed," says SBTRKT.) The cameo wasn't wholly surprising -- Drake had remixed SBTRKT's moody "Wildfire," which features a feathery vocal assist from Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano.

More often, SBTRKT is the one 
doing the remixing. Last year he 
reworked Tinie Tempah's U.K. No. 1 
single "Pass Out" and Ronson's "Bang Bang Bang." This past summer, he did the same to "Lotus Flower," from Radiohead's recent The King of Limbs, after Thom Yorke heard his music on BBC 
radio. Cultivating such a high-profile fan base may put a crimp in SBTRKT's plan to remain anonymous, but it's the stuff of fantasy nonetheless -- which is appropriate for his chosen genre. "As a basic thing," he says, "electronic music is not based on some personal life story. The majority is this imaginary universe of sound." These days, though, reality is looking pretty good.

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