Masked producer SBTRKT establishes lasting moods with dense builds and ambitious arrangements.
Berlin techno meets grayed-out UK garage on Step In Shadows, the second EP from SBTRKT for XL's Young Turks imprint. Born Aaron Jerome, the producer dons an elaborate African mask for his live outings, which obviously matters little for those of us listening at home. SBTRKT's sleek dance music has earned him prime remix work, love on Skream's Rinse FM radio show, and more -- so these beats will likely mystify no matter what he's wearing onstage.
SBTRKT's compositions, also issued via Ramp, Tempa and elsewhere, feel full and complete. With emphatic bass weight and miscellaneous percussive sounds, the Londoner establishes lasting moods on Step In Shadows, often applying dense builds and ambitious arrangements. Through stuttering samples and an uncompromising rhythmic rumble, EP opener "Colonise" swings hard, with crackles and skipping kicks. The subsequent, growling "Hide or Seek" is equally immense -- it's fleshed out and loaded with ideas. Just as thumb pianos bump up against rippling synths on the title track, "Hide or Seek" offers sudden, gorgeous string swells that materialize unexpectedly, with no rhyme or reason. When the violins rush in, from way out in the middle of left field, it's a new beast altogether, as if some pest has gone and yanked off its mask.