by Jeb Gavin
Is there a reason electronic artists need to have a DJ night? That’s not to say certain artists aren’t great at it. SBTRKT’s Aaron Jerome orchestrated a curious albeit thoroughly entertaining evening of music Sunday night at the U Street Music Hall, but the question remains; why not just make your own music?
I propose the following hypothesis- we are all curators. Not exactly a new thought there. That few of us act as creators as well is likewise not groundbreaking. But as media floods in, it becomes more important than ever to be able to process and determine what if anything is worth our time and attention. As creators, your ability to curate, to parse that which you consider vital and relevant and good directly influences how and what and why you create. In allowing others to hear and glimpse the way you opt to curate your own life, even for just a few hours, it better informs your audience as to the how and the what and occasionally even the why.
SBTRKT serves as an excellent example of this. Thankfully we are drifting away from the days where actors and socialites can spent an hour gerrymandering Top 40 hits and calling it a DJ set. Instead we have actual musicians, even those working almost exclusively in the electronic medium- on the decks, ambling musically through their influences.
For Jerome, this means weirdly sinister yet up tempo electronic music. The tracks he plays chirp and stutter, they drag themselves along the edges of the room. SBTRKT’s own works sound like house music built out of two step and African rhythms. Spinning other people’s music live, he favors what sounds like warped 1950s girl group samples, processed beyond recognition and bolted to a cacophony of muffled thumps. It’s the sort of thing that inspires a sort of muted, shuffling dance, as though the music’s dense warp and weft draped over the room.
This was the sort of unique sound in which the essence of SBTRKT’s own tracks are rooted. As likely to make you dance as kill- a mix of fun and evil, dangerous and playful, liberating and constricting. I was impressed if nothing else that an evening of electronic music that might full well have been an ethnomusicological thesis managed to sound so consistently good. Perhaps this is the greatest insight into Jerome’s work: if garbage in makes garbage out, we can only hope the contrary might hold true with greater regularity.