We shouldn’t underestimate the impact of UK garage on the Noughties. Sure, it became overblown and gimmicky and died with the invention of So Solid Crew, which was in turn parodied in popular culture with Blazin’ Squad and nobody wanted anything to do with the image anymore. It’s happened with dubstep too. That genre is already clichéd; nobody is really excited by Skream anymore, since he released his disappointing sell-out second album and took dubstep down with him. Now there are dubstep breaks in Britney tracks. Too commercial, too popular, too soon.
But that 2-step feel has been bubbling away in the undergrowth of UK electronica for a while. You could hear it in Burial, his two albums owing as much to garage as to the dubstep scene he was associated with. Ital Tek is an extension of that sound, surely interred in the deeper recesses of dub- or post-dubstep. But that chipped, quasi-off-beat percussion keeping the beats ticking is exactly what put the ‘step’ in garage, 2- and dub- step.
Emerging electronica artists in the aftermath of dubstep have cottoned on quickly, resisting over-exposure and letting the music do the talking. Ghostpoet, DELS and Jamie Woon have all released exceptional albums in recent months, rescuing dance music in the UK from the excesses of the last year or so. And in SBTRKT’s eponymous debut album we see the crystallisation of everything the scene has been doing, the fruiting of that 2-step influence, and a stunning indication of where UK dance music is right now.
The nu-soul of Jamie Woon is given an injection of glitchy 2-step on tracks like ‘Something Goes Right’ and ‘Never Never’. Elsewhere, real weight is provided in the bombasm and bass that flesh out the huge ‘Ready Let Stoop’, while the minimal ‘Trials Of The Past’, and the lead single and album highlight ‘Wildfire’ provide slick, streamlined pieces of electro-RnB.
SBTRKT has been talked about for a while, but he’s been careful not to release too much of his material. Yet none of the tracks he has actually released to date even feature on the album, ensuring it has the freshness a debut album should have; a mistake made by many of the hyped bands to release first albums in recent months. The restraint and attention to texture found here blur the lines between electro, garage and soul, and delivers one of the best albums of the year so far.
Released: 27th June 2011