Few have made as much of a mark on the electronic music scene as BT. From being called the “pioneer of trance” to holding a world record for the most vocal samples in a song to chopping vocals into 2048th notes by hand to writing his own software to creating a song using computer code, this man has done it all. Or has he? Well, he’s never written an album focused almost exclusively on dance music…until now, that is.
Before I go any farther, I will make one recommendation which will completely change how you view ASAW (A Song Across Wires). Purchase the extended version of this album. The ordinary version that you’ll find on iTunes or Amazon or wherever you shop for music is basically just a bunch of radio edits, or at least it feels that way. If you want to feel the real BT magic that’s on all his other albums, get the extended version.
Now with that out of the way, let us begin.
Anyone who has ever listened to an album or even a song from BT knows that he is a production genius. Each and every second of each and every song has been viewed with a fine-toothed comb and packed with enough details to make even the most stringent micromanager’s head explode, with the result being nothing short of astonishing. As a result, he is one of my own personal idols, a man I strive to be with every song I create – though of course I am quite a long distance away from succeeding at this point.
As mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, BT has never put together an album focused almost exclusively on dance music until now. ASAW is the first of its kind from him, and though it’s dance music, it is not the generic bigroom hardstyle-kick-triplet-synth-stab kind of dance music you’ll find on Beatport’s Top10 list, not by any means. That’s the brilliant thing about this collection of songs – it’s dance music, but it’s still soulful, still full of art, and yes, still packed to the brim of that special brand of BT magic. Also unlike previous albums from Mr. Bryan Transeau (BT’s real name), ASAW features quite a few collaborations – in fact, only two of the 12 songs were made by him alone.
While nearly song from this album is brilliant in my eyes, particular standouts include “Skylarking,” “Tomahawk,” “Letting Go,” and “Stem The Tides.” Two of those, “Skylarking” and “Tomahawk” were released prior to ASAW, especially in “Tomahawk’s” case, which was released as a single in late 2011 on Armind, a sublabel of Armada Music. While “Skylarking” and “Stem The Tides” are ‘usual’ (I’m using that term loosely here – anybody who knows BT’s music well knows that there is nothing usual about it) fare from Transeau, “Tomahawk” and “Letting Go” most certainly are not. The former, a collaboration with Adam K, is an intelligent, mad mixture of electro house, progressive house, and trance with enough energy at its climax to rival that of a nuclear explosion. “Letting Go” on the other hand is a first for BT – it’s dubstep. This isn’t anything Skrillex-esque though, by any means. There are no people screaming, no blenders, no vacuum cleaners. What there is instead is a fantastic collaboration with his protégé Fractal, who is a rising dubstep artist, and singer JES, filled with pounding kick drums and melody and vocal cuts and everything else you’d expect a dubstep song from one of the world’s best producers to be full of. It is, in a way, not dubstep but instead “BT-step.”
There are only two songs on this album which I’m not particularly fond of, and those two are “City Life” and “Must Be The Love.” For some reason, they just don’t strike the same chord in me as the others do; I find them boring to listen to or even unpleasant. As a result, I find myself skipping them every time they come up during a playthrough, an unfortunate circumstance really. Of course, skipping two out of twelve songs is still perfectly acceptable for an album as a whole to be fantastic, and that is still the case here. In fact, the remaining ten songs are so spectacular that they make me completely forget about these two bad apples.
That means in the end we’re left with an amazing collection of groundbreaking music, an omen for the future of dance music, a representation of the phenomenon that is occurring in the electronic music production industry where artists are starting to get the idea that songs should be different from each other and artistic, not just a heavy kick drum with some synth stabs thrown in. BT has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to production, so if I were you, I’d be excited about what’s coming in 2014, based on this album alone. Now go on, stop wasting time and making excuses, and buy the extended album already.