For all the clamor over what constitutes an authentically live performance of electronic music, SBTRKT has shown that it’s not really all that hard to do, provided that you know your way around a MIDI controller and a drum kit — and have access to a singer as talented as Sampha. Live, released today, collects 10 songs from SBTRKT (Aaron Jerome) and Sampha’s performance last October at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, showing off the musicians’ stage chops as well as the malleability of his songs.
Crowd noise, copious reverb, and muscular drum grooves lend a sense of energy that’s a world away from the quiet intimacy of his self-titled debut album, and on several tracks, string players from the Heritage Orchestra flesh out an even fuller sound. (For better or for worse, chamber strings look to be one of 2013’s hot trends in live electronic music.) It’s disappointing that Yukimi Nagano wasn’t part of the performance — for “Wildfire,” SBTRKT played back and manipulated her vocals from the album sessions — but Sampha does an admirable job of holding down the spotlight throughout the set, particularly on “Right Thing to Do,” a song originally featuring Jessie Ware. Live is rough around the edges in places, but that’s part of its charm; it’s a testament to what’s possible for electronic musicians who are willing to step away from the laptop and trade control for spontaneity.
Live is currently available only on iTunes, and includes video footage of “Wildfire” and “Hold On / Migration,” from the same concert; a limited vinyl/DVD edition will be available from Young Turks and XL on February 25.