Richie McCormack reviews SBTRKT: Wonder Where We Land
The masked avenger has returned. Aaron Jerome's first album gained him a solid underground reputation, aided by collaborations with the likes of Jessie Ware and Sampha.
The title of his second album hints at the possibilities to come. Jerome has called upon the same troops that brought him to this frontier, with Sampha again featuring heavily, while Ware returns on the loping and confessional 'Problem Solved'.
One of Jerome's gifts as a producer is to never crowd his collaborators. The spotlight is firmly fixed on Sampha for the romantically-transient title track, where he's accented as much by his own vocal effects as he is the bleeps and bloops. Jerome's production adds a light-headed, woozy partner to A$AP Ferg's druggy 'Voices In My Head'.
For all the light, there is accompanying shade too. Raury's rapid-fire rhymes on 'Higher' add an intriguing dark note to the album as he rails against an absent father, with the following interlude a snapshot of what sounds like a New Orleans funeral procession. Chairlift's Caroline Polachek adds skewed and sweet vocals to the twitchy 'Look Away', a track that builds and builds until its wave breaks to become 'Osea'.
There are moments that leave us wanting more - for instance, 'Lantern' definitely needs a second act. But the undoubted highlight comes on 'New Dorp New York', on which Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig spits an almost Azealia Banks-esque vocal over a throbbing groove. As plays for the mainstream go, it's as subtle as they come with few, if any, compromises made and new ground laid for later journeys.