Photography by Andy Moran
More than just setting the right vibes, pre-show music played over the PA can sometimes give the crowd a glimpse into the near future. In the 40 minutes after opening act Coralcola, SBTRKT opted to play almost all of LCD Soundsystem’s “45:33” in its entirety. The song’s winding dancefloor grooves was an oblique preview of the landscape of analog synths and heavy breakbeats that would soon take place.
Aaron Jerome, AKA SBTRKT,also seemed intent on following in LCD’s strong ethos of their live performances. His current live band features the immense talents of James Holdom on drums and Fabiana Palladino on a wide variety of synths and percussion tools, filling out Boston’s Royale nightclub. With a huge amount of instruments lining the stage, ranging from the standard live drums and synth set up to a theremin and the Roland TR-8, a modern day reimagining of the classic 808s and 909s, the trio did an excellent job of recreating the rhythmic intricacies of SBTRKT’s work.
Because of the focus on live rhythms, I Initially had a weird disconnect, hearing live instrumentation playing along to the samples of the various singers that populate SBTRKT’s two albums, though it would be unfair and unreasonable to expect them to bring along every guest singer. For the most part it worked, though I had a hard time not imaging Ezra Koenig floating around like a talking head during “New Dorp, New York”.
What this did do, however, was put full focus on the sometimes pummeling beats. “New Dorp, New York”‘s tribal rhythms were bombastic. Other times, the trio would fall into intricate patterns alternating between straight 4/4 bass hits holding down a tight groove while Fabiana was constantly alternating between various rhythmic instruments with the right amount of subtlety and groove to her playing, striking and tapping on various percussion instruments like rain on tin. With the band never losing a precise, funky groove, there was no nothing lost in the transition from the studio to the club.
After half an hour of building up heady dancefloor beats, “Look Away” slowed things down to a more sensual, trip hop-esque groove, with Caroline Polachek’s beautiful, disembodied voice gracefully floating over the audience with a light analog synth accompanying her. The song’s then proceeded transitioned between faster drum fills and epic, almost arena rock, beats before the entire club was covered in a massive laser emanating from the stage.
“Pharaohs” brought the groove back in the most overtly poppy and catchy way, creating a great contrast between the two songs while “Temporary View”’s jazzy beat and twinkling synths got one of the best responses of the night. “War Drums” lived up to its name, with Holdom creating a fantastic, driving rhythm that quickly built up into one of the most intense songs of the entire show. Holdom and Fabiana were working in perfect sync with one another, creating volleys of tommy gun rhythms. And “Wildfire”, of course, got the biggest response of the night.
The most interesting portion of the set was the encore that featured a remix of Radiohead’s “Lotus Flower” that sounded much more like a SBTRKT song than a Radiohead’s song. It was brilliant indicator of SBTRKT’s strong personality that gives both his music such a unique edge and sound. As the song continued to build in intensity, moving further and further away from its relatively quant origins, the crowd could tell that SBTRKT was elevating both his grasp on his own music and electronic music as a whole.