Sisi BakBak: Who Is SBTRKT’s Mysterious Remixer
Atoms of Peace provocateur under suspicion again
Where 4Chan had “All your base are belong to us,” the dance-music underground has long operated according to the principle, “All your face are belong to us.” Every week seems to bring yet another producer toiling in secret under an assumed name — at least until the invariable outing by London’s tabloid press (or, barring that, the Discogs hive mind).
The latest shadowy figure to slink upon the scene is one Sisi BakBak, who recently made his/her/their debut with a remix of SBTRKT’s “Hold On” for the Young Turks label.
It’s fitting, of course, that SBTRKT would turn to an unknown quantity, given his own penchant for hiding behind an array of African-inspired masks, which are designed by an anonymous (of course!) visual artist known as A Hidden Place.
No one stays anonymous for very long these days, however (including SBTRKT, who long ago was unmasked as 2000s broken-beat producer Aaron Jerome), and it’s widely rumored that Sisi BakBak is an alias of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.
That could be, even though the evidence is mostly circumstantial. Exhibit A: a recent Tweet from BBC Radio 1 DJ Rob Da Bank, who effused, “listening to the thom yorke mix of @SBTRKT for the 18th time…unbeatable!” He didn’t specify which remix, however. Additionally, as many have noted, SBTRKT previously remixed Radiohead for their album TKOL RMX 1234567, which would make the swap logical.
Still, I have my doubts. Stylistically, the remix doesn’t sound anything like Yorke’s solo album The Eraser (granted, it’s six years old) or his last solo venture, “Feelingpulledapartbyhorses”; nor does it bear much relation to Yorke’s 2011 collaboration with Burial and Four Tet.
Just to keep things interesting, here’s a lineup of alternate suspects.
The remix doesn’t sound much like Dan Snaith’s psychedelic-leaning Caribou project, but check out his output as Daphni, a dance-floor alias. Daphni’s “Ye Ye” and “Ahora” and remixes for Carl Craig and Art Department all share the shuddering drums and wonky synthesizers of the “Hold On” mix; he’s also got a thing for looping and pitch-shifting vocals, just like Sisi BakBak.
Holden, another producer whose aesthetic is tangled up with that of Four Tet, Daphni, and their peers on the fringes of club music, was one of the first names that came to mind upon hearing the remix. Sisi BakBak’s version has the same skewed timekeeping and ragged sonics that Holden favors in his own productions and in the output of his label, Border Community. He hasn’t released anything under his own name in ages now, save the odd remix here and there, making this the perfect time to reinvent himself in stealth mode.
It’s not inconceivable that Bok Bok, the British bass-music producer and co-founder of the Night Slugs label, could come up with something like this: the Sisi BakBak remix has the same rude energy and ungainly rhythms as his music, and he’s proven his versatility with tracks that range from grime (“Silo Pass”) to jacking analog house (the Night Voyage Tool Kit EP, a collaboration with Tom Trago). Plus, how far is it from Bok Bok to BakBak?
Probability: Probably too obvious to be true
Four Tet hails from the same circle as SBTRKT, and his eclectic, internationally-minded productions share an aesthetic with the masked producer. Granted, Four Tet’s usual style is a lot spongier than the chopped-up drum machines and buzzing synth-bass of the Sisi BakBak remix (or “Rmx,” as it’s officially titled — which, okay, looks a little like Yorke’s signature.)
The (anonymous, naturally) Spanish producer John Talabot has also recorded for Young Turks, and he recently toured Australia with SBTRKT. Charting Talabot’s evolution from his first singles, in 2009, to his recently released debut album, fIN, it’s clear that he’s something of a shape-shifter. (Plus, “Sisi” is Spanish for “Yesyes”!) Admittedly, it’s a stretch. Where Talabot goes for melodies as airy as rainbow-colored cotton candy, the Sisi BakBak remix is tough and cracked, like dried gum on the sole of your shoe.
His solo productions and remixes (for Nosaj Thing, Gil Scott-Heron, Radiohead, et al.) have the same kind of elliptical grooves and rough-hewn surface as the Sisi BakBak track. More importantly, though, he’s one of the flagship artists on Young Turks (particularly as a member of the xx), and has yet to remix SBTRKT. Suspicious, no?
Probability: Plausible, but reaching
Okay, I just made this one up. But with so many artists out there adopting monikers that riff on famous names and/or brands (Joy Orbison, Com Truise, Tom Croose, Mord Fustang, Vodge Diper, et al.), it’s only a matter of time before someone gives Mr. Yorke the spoonerism treatment. Whoever Sisi BakBak may be, the best way for him or her to preserve his/her anonymity would be to switch monikers with every new production. In which case, Yom Torque would make an excellent next step. (I’ve got the character all figured out — it’d be a Jewish motor-sports enthusiast, like, perhaps, an Israeli Steve McQueen.)
Probability: About the same as a simian secretarial pool typing out the collected works of Shakespeare — which is to say, it could happen!