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BT - Mad Skillz BT

Album Reviews

MTV ESCM Album Review

BT - ESCM (Reprise)

"Blue Skies": it was a high point for Tori Amos, let alone the artist to whom she was lending her vocal talents, BT. "Blue Skies," in fact, was a high point for electronica last year, a most intense invocation of the love-hate relationship between man and machine. And for a change, it wasn't a Brit behind the controls, but a Maryland native by the name of Brian Transeau.

So expectations have run high for BT's sophomore effort, ESCM. The album's opener, "Firewater," immerses us in disappointingly Enigmatic territory, all dopey beat and throwaway folksy guitar strummings. But the tension that always underlies the deepest beauty comes cavorting out in the next song, "Orbitus Teranium," as fluent breakbeats and volatile sound manipulations take control and set the pace for the rest of the album.

It's almost ironic that BT has become pigeonholed in the electronic trance/hippie movement pioneered by Gong, Kraftwerk, Steve Hillage, and Jean Michelle Jarre. In fact, his approach to sound and flow can be as ambient as early Orb and as jagged and rough as anything the Chemical Brothers concoct; the sheer sonic and emotional scope of ESCM is truly impressive. BT is a genius at creating magnificent, lush soundscapes, injecting them with rhythmic barbed wire, and then rupturing the whole scenario for a new dive in direction.

The stand-out track is the quasi-industrial "Love, Peace and Grease," an epic that spurts disco fuzz across a firmament of firelight, partly comical, partly dreadful. "Lullaby For Gaia" and "Remember" both feature vocals by Jan Johnston -- she's no Tori Amos, but her vocal serenity and pathos serve well enough. "Remember" is also memorable for its sudden infusion of angry buzz guitar, saving the track from an otherwise Eurotrashy feel. Since BT covers so many bases, it's not surprising that drum and bass should make an appearance too. But, like BT's approach to the whole album, its presence in the rhythm section is adroitly positioned and well balanced.

Dave Kendall

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