Review: SBTRKT, Sampha bring savvy electronic grooves to the Orpheum in Tampa
As tens of thousands of the nation’s electronic music fans occupied and overran Miami’s Bayfront Park for Ultra Music Festival, almost 300 miles away, one of the genre’s brightest and biggest stars treated Orpheum in Ybor City to what will go down as one of the best live sets of 2012.
The concert experience centers on manifesting the relationship between the listener and the LP in real life, but Aaron Jerome (better known as London-based producer SBTRKT) took that interaction to an otherworldly level on Saturday night with a performance that included selections from SBTRKT’s eponymous debut LP of original material.
Released less than a year ago, SBTRKT landed on countless year-end best-of lists and made Jerome an instant blogosphere darling. He’s even been given a myriad of titles ranging from electronic music’s “post-dubstep savior” to “our generation’s Timbaland,” so his much-anticipated show arrived with high hopes.
It’s safe to say that those expectations were all blown away.
At precisely 10 p.m., SBTRKT and collaborator Sampha took the stage clad in their trademark Hidden Place-designed tribal masks and positioned themselves behind a drum kit and keyboards, respectively. Placed in between them: a selection of controllers rife with knobs, faders, and a bunch of other twisty, turnable tools of the trade.
Within five minutes, the foggy air of the Orpheum was marinating in the vibraphone samples of Hold On. Moments later, the crowd was in the full hold of the track’s subtle but gripping bass line, which was being caressed by Sampha’s familiar and soulful croon.
While Sampha’s vocal was immediately affecting, Jerome’s hefty contributions made themselves known in a more understated fashion. He is a notoriously private artist who chooses to let his music speak for itself, but he spares no expense in explaining his process through the performance. His live drumming gave new, almost tangible, life to album cuts (Wildfire, Pharaohs and Trials Of The Past were especially great) and watching the pair build tracks sometimes felt like watching two friends jamming alone, mining their collective minds for new ways to arrange and syncopate the sounds and rhythms that live inside of their bodies.
The result was a very genuine and visceral display that reached a high point when the boys unleashed a 15-minute, style-mixing version of Step In Shadows that found Jerome transitioning between movements by using various controllers to manipulate the sounds coming from a theremin, a nearly 100-year-old touch-free electronic musical instrument.
Therin lies the beauty of a SBTRKT set. For all of the evening’s technicalities and compositional nuance, Jerome and Sampha craft music that simply makes bodies move. From start to finish – and from corner to corner of the building – the pair’s onstage energy was transmitted throughout the room, and everyone from beat heads with honorary degrees in EDM, to PBR-swilling brosteppers, to cross-armed would-be critics, couldn’t help but give in and let go.
-- Ray Roa, tbt*