by Mark B.
This weekly feature isn’t a new concept, instead, it is an old concept with a new twist: the recommending of great music by someone who actually listens to it for pleasure! This may not sound like much, but when you think about it, most journalists are handed CD’s and listen and report because it’s their job. But here, music is listened to for enjoyment, not because anybody has to, helping to give this column a genuine feel. This place is not just limited to the Indie/Unsigned Artists, it’s also about “mainstream” artists that are truly taking musical risks, or ones that have seen their hey-day, but continue to make music, only on their owns terms. So we get to know each other better, I will provide you the reader with an introduction to my musical taste. Genre wise, I have a deep and undying love for New Wave, Synth-Pop, and 80’s music (and by 80’s I don’t mean that garbage called Hair metal, talk about posers). I am also deeply into the faceless world of Electronica, including the sub-genre of DJ culture. Take a look through my iPod or CD collection, you will find a diverse rotation of artists spanning each and every realm, such as BT, Paul Oakenfold, Human League, The Police, Sondre Lerche, The The, Boston, Static-X, Beth Orton, Charlotte Martin, Ken Andrews to name a few. What you won’t find in my collection are any Emo, Pop-punk or Indie “darling” bands or any of the like. I firmly believe that there is nothing likable about any of those genres, though I have tried to many of the artists a fair listen. In writing this weekly article, I hope to open up a whole new world of sonic experiences to you, showing you the roads less traveled. I am reaching out to you, the reader, to give the artist that I am talking about an honest shot.
Artists You Don’t Know About, but SHOULD
For my first installment in this weekly series, I have chosen one of my favorite artists, a musician that has never failed to excite or amaze, someone who pushes the sonic boundaries further and further out with each realese; he goes by the name of BT. So where do I begin? One would think that it would be the easiest of tasks to write about your favorite musician on the planet, but alas, it has proven to be one of the most difficult articles that I have ever had to write. Electronica artist, DJ (or not), music synthesist, film composer, these are just a few of the titles that one can bestow upon BT. The only thing more diverse than the man is his music, as evident by his albums, and the constant genre defying work each seems to be.
For starters, those of you that prefer dream-like trance that provides both a good beat to dance to, or soothing rhythms to chill to, one should be guided towards his first full-length effort Ima (1995). The album offers a journey through time and space, complete with pulsing rhythms, whale calling, floating pianos, and what can only be described as breathy, shimmering synth swirls, which help provide an audio journey through some distant far off land. In the U.S. version of the release, the listener is treated to a 2x CD experience, with disc 2 featuring collaboration with Tori Amos on the dance/rock track “Blue Skies”. Venturing further down the road of sound is his second effort ESCM, which expands further on the sonic journey of Ima, and is the first album to begin branching into genres such as hip-hop, drum and bass, and alt-rock (even featuring some live instruments). It features a more club-oriented vibe, which is exemplified in one of his most popular dance tunes “Flaming June” (which also appears at the end of the album as a brief orchestral hidden track). Or there’s the eclecticism of his third album, Movement in Still Life (2000), which gives you access to the inner workings of Bt’s mind, giving you a guide tour of the musical genres that not only influence him, but showing you the areas where he truly runs free. The opening hip-hop jam “Madskillz/Mic Chekka”, transitions into a pumping dance-rock assault (“Never Gonna Come Back Down”), which gives way to symphonic dance (“Dreaming”), right into an alt-rock ballad (“Shame”). The rest of the album continues on this course of action, each song constantly changing and shifting genres, while successfully staying on track to make the album a rocking cluster-fuck of cohesion (and I mean this in the best way). His fourth album, Emotional Technology (2003), represented a musical about face, giving more of a poppier-inflected sound in addition to the dance music that he is known for. It features Bt on vocals for several songs, and showcases more of his rock and acoustic roots, although his biggest hit in “Somnambulist” is still the dance sound known to BT fans. However, the album that represents a true musical journey is best contained within the 5.1 surround sound barriers of his most recent offering This Binary Universe (2006). Instead of dance numbers, flitching ballads, or hip-hop jams, instead the listener is given the access to a 5.1 surround sound world filled with ambient soundscapes, lush orchestral arrangements, and classical arrangements sequenced in time with its electronic counterparts.
Top 10* Sonic Experiences
I originally had created a top 5 list to provide a good introduction to BT, however, upon listening to all of his albums again, I realized that a top 10 list would be needed, as his genre hopping is so prolific, it needs to be properly addressed. SO, for your consideration, here are the 10 best introductions to the sonic realm of Mr. BT:
- Flaming June (from the album ESCM)
- Tripping the Light Fantastic (from the album Ima)
- Never Gonna Come Back Down (from the album Movement in Still Life)
- Somnambulist (from the album Emotional Technology)
- Love on Haight Street (from the album Movement in Still Life)
- Girls Kissing (Music from and inspired the film Monster)
- Blue Skies [ft. Tori Amos] (from the album Ima)
- 1.618 (from the album This Binary Universe)
- Fibonacci Sequence (form the album Rare and Remixed)
- The Road to Lostwithiel (from the album 10 Years in the Life)