Friday, 6 July 2012

BT - If The Stars Are Eternal So Are You And I


You can't fault a man like Brian Transeau, when it comes to finding the energy and the drive to do what he does best. BT, as he's more commonly known to you and I, still remains one of the dominant figureheads in the World of cross-over EDM both melodically and compositely alike. Over the years, Transeau has expanded his sound from what was once initially a sound-carved journey of chillout melodic dance ('ESCM') into more down-to-Earth hip-hop influenced techno and house - 'Movement In Still Life' still marks itself one of BT's finest deliverances of rhythm and content. And while the melody of his music has walked a very thin tightrope between the emotive and the outright cheesy - These Hopeful Machines most recently certainly upping the stakes, calling 'all in' at the taste table - Transeau's skills as both a musician and a producer stand out brightest when he's at his most adventurous; when heavy beats and romanticizing lyrics are ditched for more open-World self-discovery of sound. Most people who consider 'This Binary Universe' to be the magnum opus of his catalogue will immediately recognize the objectives laid out on this, the first of BT's three records to be distributed in 2012 (the others being the 42-minute stand-alone of 'Morceau Subrosa', as well as a new EDM album in the same vain as Machines)

The seven-track record - much like This Binary Universe - sees BT expanding upon his original detailing of chillout's notoriously testing reaches of sound exploration. '13 Angels On My Broken Windowsill' starts off in an eery light-hearted treading of faint synthesizers and instrumental key notations. While the styling is more on par with the barebones of minimal ambient level, Transeau still showcases rhythm in the increasing usage of piano and keyboard instrumentation alike. And being the longest composition on the record, the transformation from fluttering monologue to a panoramic perception on sound and implementation is steady but solidly laid out. By the half-way point however, BT's extensive techno and house knowledge finally comes into play, intensity starting to roll in as the song shifts from downtempo spreads to more centralized concoctions of glitch and breakbeat electronics. The dubstep usage soon after may feel out-of-place, but he comes across as neither lost nor desperate, as if to back up its usage - uplifting shots of EDM-infused beats and synthesizers actually takes away from the potential distraction left by this drastic shift.

But again, much like previous BT efforts, this track - like many others both here and on previous records - comes across as unnecessarily longer than what is and should be expected. And while I admire the carefully-treading tightrope of micro-house and drone underlays on 'Go(d)t' - minimal beats layed atop a wash of moaning darkening potent drone - the question as to what Transeau is hoping to achieve by seemingly leaving the track to run its course, is certainly one we may never find the answer to, or even hear the last of, it seems. Having said that, if there's one thing BT as a stand-alone musical identity does well, it's immersing the listener in this recurring, abnormal antithesis of driven electronics. And at the same time, the experience all the while feels little more than a dream. Indeed, the way 'Hymn [808]' begins - an alarm clock going off in the background, an individual (possibly Mr. Transeau himself) telling us to 'wake up' - suggests something quite multiversal and subconscious about the way the album is structured. It's all rhetoric, but it's a key and influential part on the album's execution. The third track may not show as much invigorating originality - glitchy drum beats closely thumping to the carriage of key changes and ambient minimalism - but this does not share as much fault and fatigue as any other album attempting this same context of sound would.

'Seven-Hundred-Thirty-Nine', which actually marks itself time-wise as more of a compact addressing of ideas (surprising given this was originally a 10-minute track), is without a doubt BT's most culminated and reflective of his discography. Addressing both the symphonic glide of electronics and synths, and at the same time incorporating traditional instrumentation of acoustics and piano, it intensifies the awe to which this track manifests itself. The clogging of bass-centered beats or the claustrophobic rhythm of the piece may not exactly be everyone's cup of tea, but the simple idea of, like I said, tracks simply running their course actually work best in this manner when the thought of prolonging the event is removed and the event itself is left to merely happen. 'The Gathering Darkness', the album's final piece (and coincidentally the second-longest after the opening composition), could be considered by many - rather than some - to be the most outward-bound of the seven tracks here. Much unlike its title suggests, the synths and traditional instrumentation is quite bright in its palette, glimmers of patch-worked electronic highs snow-ball into a euphoria that, almost immediately, becomes withdrawn by a similarly bundled-together treading of gentle buzzes and crunches of house synths. It's this somewhat shy unveiling of sound that soon surfaces from out of the fog of electronics into more upbeat territory of conventional house, beats and rhythm now playing a more crucial role in the track's trajectory towards what is (by BT's standards) a recognizable deliverance of body-pumping dance music balanced only by somber acoustics and shuddering delves into the unknown.

It's this unknown - this very recognizably unrecognizable dark abyss - where nine out of ten times we find ourselves with this guy's music, as if on a pivotal knife's edge unsure where to go next. BT's music may, for the most part, associate with something more human and impacting, but it's here on 'If The Stars Are Eternal So Are You And I' where his skills truly come into play and, as a result, shine through. Yes, the track lengths remain an issue - so too the justification behind them - as does the way Transeau comes across as if he's almost expecting his listeners to know instantaneously just what he's hoping to come across in these adventures of sound. For a guy who's seen more-than-likely as just another house/techno producer from a neutral's perspective, BT certainly knows how to structure his sound. How to stop it and move on is something else altogether. And while the problem isn't life (or in his case, career) threatening, there's no escaping from its clear and present visibility. Prepare yourselves folks, the shift in the norm may be further than what we're used to.
~Jordan

7.7