In 1936, Mexican artist Pedro Linares was bedridden with a serious illness. As he slept, he dreamt of deformed creatures – a donkey with butterfly wings, a cockerel with antlers and a koala with a boa constrictor’s tail. His hallucinations inspired him to make colourful, contorted sculptures that became known as alebrijes. A disconcerting image inspired by Linares’ beasts sits on the sleeve of Aaron Jerome’s second album as SBTRKT.
The muse behind ‘Wonder Where We Land”s artwork is no surprise. The painted tribal masks the mysterious producer has worn onstage since he emerged in 2011 also take inspiration from Central and South America. The album’s 15 self-produced tracks each display a different shade from his palette – jumping from house and techno (‘Osea’, ‘Everybody Knows’) to piano soul (‘If It Happens’) and hip-hop (‘Higher’). Guests are plentiful, from previous collaborators Jessie Ware and Sampha to A$AP Ferg, Welsh producer Koreless and Raury, an 18-year-old rapper from Atlanta. Recorded sporadically on Essex’s Osea Island and later in LA and New York, it’s a restless listen.
‘Day 1’ offers a searing 30-second introduction before the title track flickers into life as if on rewind, Sampha’s vocal softening its intensity. Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig provides typically clever wordplay (”Gargoyles, gargling oil”) on bouncy, percussive highlight ‘New Dorp. New York’. Chairlift’s Caroline Polacheck sings poetically over prickly beats on ‘Look Away’, and another Sampha track ‘Gon Stay’, skips along with a touch of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’. Four guest-free tracks veer from eccentric interludes (‘Day 1’, ‘Day 5’) to contorting floorfillers (‘Lantern’, ‘Everybody Knows’) to complete the album’s eclectic vision.
Unlike Pedro Linares, it didn’t take illness to spark Jerome’s creativity. While we may never fully understand his inspiration, when his work is as colourful and inventive as this, it’s a small sacrifice.