The man behind the mask is back, this time bringing some new friends as well as old ones. This much-anticipated sophomore album, Wonder Where We Land, certainly does not disappoint those fans who loved getting their critical faculties lowered (or heightened) to their debut album. There is always that “What is this?” moment after you get fully blown away by the futuristic sounds of SBTRKT, and despite all the waves of innovative British electronic artists in recent years, SBTRKT focuses on taking his own genre one step further.

The highlight of his new album is perhaps the big names he brings this time, Ezra Koenig and A$AP Ferg. The former appears on a New-York-tribute song “NEW DORP. NEW YORK” fitting to his name. As the first single of the album, it sounds more fluffy than your typical SBTRKT, yet strikes a perfect balance with Koenig’s breezy voice. The latter, on the other hand, suggests that SBTRKT is finding new ways in fusing hip-hop into his music. By adding lots of piano to the rapping Ferg, “Voices In My Head” really shows the creativity of SBTRKT.

Check out “NEW DORP. NEW YORK” below:

“Higher” is another track that explores the endless possibility of hip-hop/electronic fusion. And arguably it is more well-balanced than “Voices in my Head”. Raury’s voice and SBTRKT’s synth rhythm sticks together coherently and surely take us “higher” already without any help. The rest of album is largely SBTRKT at his most comfortable with regular and fan-favorite Sampha and Jessie Ware. Sampha’s soulful voice is considered by many an unmatched fit for SBTRKT. If you are in doubt, just go check out “Temporary View”.

Another hidden gem may be “The Light”, a collaboration with the up-and-coming UK artist Denai Moore. It certainly is quite reminiscent of some of the magical sounds produced by Alt-J. Moore then gives it such a fresh voice that this song becomes a nice surprise in the album!

Overall, SBTRKT’s second album succeeds in its continuation of past successes and its innovation and experimentation of new sounds and genres. Its star-studded feature list sure is going to bring a lot of attention to this album. But it is little-known artists such as Raury and Denai Moore that hit us with pleasant surprises here. SBTRKT sure has enough reasons to smile behind that mask this time.

-Written by Brian Ma