Today’s Sounds: SBTRKT

London, England electronic duo SBTRKT played one of the best sets at Osheaga last year, and a new Live album, supplemented by video, comes close to capturing that sick energy. Plus: a new track by the Besnard Lakes and a video by Rachel Zeffira, half of Cat’s Eyes.


SBTRKT, Live (Young Turks)

There was little question in my mind as to which live performance in 2012 was my favourite: British producer SBTRKT’s anaerobic, multitasking heroics at Osheaga (along with vocalist Sampha) provided the perfect combination of great songs, impressive technique and infectious energy to go along with an attentive (in this case hyperactive) crowd.

If you missed out on the memorable set, don’t fret, as he’s unexpectedly dropped Live: 10 songs and two videos from a show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire last October, and it lives up to even my lofty expectations.

Naturally the album doesn’t quite recreate the magic of dancing in a tightly packed, dusty pit at Parc Jean-Drapeau, but Live can boast having the definitive versions of the songs from his eponymous debut. A big reason for this is the presence of live percussion, which SBTRKT himself plays when he’s not uncomfortably leaning over his table of electronic instruments. In addition, Sampha sings on the majority of the tracks, and while he may occasionally sound a bit out of breath (because he’s also juggling multiple roles at once), he absolutely dominates certain moments, in particular “Trials of the Past’s” emotional climax.

One funny note about SBTRKT’s Osheaga set: although Little Dragon vocalist Yukimi Nagano famously cameos on “Wildfire,” she didn’t sing during the performance, despite being in the band scheduled to hit the stage immediately after (SBTRKT himself announced they were up next, only realizing the coincidence then). She’s not on the Live version either, although the real star there is the Drake verse, broken up and reconstructed here with manic glee. The way “Evening Glow” segues into “Wildfire” is another exquisite touch you won’t get listening to the studio recordings.


The Besnard Lakes, “People of the Sticks”

Ethereal sweetness and savoury guitar grind combine on this taste of the forthcoming record by Montreal’s own Besnard Lakes. On Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, out April 2 on Outside Music, the quartet is joined by members of Moonface, the Barr Brothers band and Fifth String Liberation Singers Choir.



Rachel Zeffira, “Here On In”

For a lighter but no less flavourful take on that celestial rock sound (in the key of Broadcast, minus the dissonant squalls), check out the video by Gloria Swanson-faced Canadian-born chanteuse Rachel Zeffira, now based in the U.K. — she’s also half of Cat’s Eyes, and has her own Fuck Yeah Tumblr. The single is out now, and her LP, The Deserters, will be released by Paper Bag Records on March 12.

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