Sometimes pop is a landscape you move through.
Sometimes pop is a bottle you fill up, like a liquid, with your self.
Pharoahs, by SBTRKT is both of these things, and so much more.
It’s a simple framework, on the surface. Every element is tiny, clear and sharp (until the filters take over and blur it all into a mass of noise, but even that is done with a precision that very, very carefully overwhelms). Everything has space to breathe and stand alone. It deconstructs itself with it’s simplicity.
I need me a golden crown
Roses Gabor smoothly slides a layer of silken vocal over the top, providing punctuation and process to the song, but at its heart, this is a (sweetly) mechanical machine for making you move.
The drum beat is almost the simplest possible assembly of beats. Kick Snare Kick Snare Kick Snare Kick Snare. The most immaculate maraca in the business emphasising every in between.
It’s almost child’s play. You couldn’t come up with something simpler if you tried, but it is made so pointed and sharp by the simple clipping of every sound. Each element is separated from each other by the barest thread, enough of a gap to squeeze yourself into. It practically begs you to fill that space, to find a body part to wedge into every motion. It’s a ‘learn to shake ass’ kind of rhythm, making everything as simple as possible.
You can see how integral that cleanness is to everything by hearing what happens to the rest of the music every time the drum beat isn’t there. The drum keeps things in check, restrains it and purifies it. When those filters start blurring the lines between voice, melody and bass, the drums drop out, and everything gets lost in a kind of ecstatic tumult.
Again, it perfectly lets you ooze out of shape, it’s an invitation to let your dance get a little bit looser, more fluid, higher, more elastic.
And the drums kick back, and everything tightens, and so do you – having been relaxed into something more physical, more free.
This song wants to teach you how to love dancing. With every ounce of its self, it wants you moving with it.
The synth elements, a sassy strutting bass with accompanying organ harmonics provide a wash of nightclub neon. They glow, sometimes through smoke, to make room for Roses. Together they seduce. For all its danceability, the scene is much closer to a night drive through bright lights than the club itself.
But it’s definitely dancing that you’re being driven to.
All I see is you,
Roses makes you the centre of the universe, even as she calls for her crown. But it’s because her kingdom is the gift she’s giving you, and in this case, the gift is movement, freedom and an irresistible desire to purse your lips and shake your hips.
Sass is one of my favourite things in music, a kind of sharpened femme aggression that can be expressed simply through a perfect harmonising of hips, bass and kick drums. It’s hard to capture, but a lot of my favourite pop bottles it, and then pours it back over me. It’s music that makes me feel like I’m moving more like myself than I could be without the music.
It’s music that fills me up, shakes me and then pours me back into it’s rhythm.
Liquid, perfect, and inescapably danceable.