I don't know about you, but when I see an electronica act live, my impression is that the music isn't actually produced by humans using tools; it materializes from the ether, or from outer space, or perhaps it's radiating from the collective brain waves of the thrashing, swaying audience. That, or I figure it's being played from a laptop. SBTRKT
is here to give us a hint at reality with his live album and music videos, out today on Young Turks
British DJ Aaron Jerome, or SBTRKT (pronounced "subtract"), who first gained a fanbase through his remixes of Radiohead, M.I.A., and Basement Jaxx, followed up the successful release of his 2011 self-titled album with a 2012 world tour featuring collaborator SAMPHA. Lucky for us, he felt the shows were so dynamic that he decided to record, edit, and release one of the last concerts as an album and two videos. What SBTRKT accomplishes with his uniquely immersive live video - recorded on twelve separate cameras and heavily edited - is to give us behind-the-scenes insight into his other-worldly soundscapes while maintaining his eerie aura of mystery.
Coming from a mix master who covers half his face with ever-present tribal masks, this type of up-close-and-personal project is a bit surprising. SBTRKT has often expressed his distaste for self-promotion and explanations, so the last thing we'd expect is a closer look at his live act, right? But the recently released "Hold On/Migration" video, recorded live at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London, is consistent with his philosophy of letting the music speak for itself: personal bombast is nonexistent and technical skill is mesmerizing. SBTRKT and SAMPHA don't produce a single cowbell tap, vocal loop, or theremin twang that is not meticulously calculated, and it's inspiring to watch them weave sounds together as a perfectly coordinated team. Far from a documentary, the video features psychedelic visual editing, shots of joyous audience members, and soundboard close-ups that make you feel both backstage and in the headspace of a concert-goer.
Here's hoping more DJs take a cue from SBTRKT and let us peek behind the mask.