Brian Transeau, or as he more pronounceably prefers to be known, BT, seems to have been around forever. From relatively humble beginnings in the mid-1990s trance world, he quickly worked his way up to becoming one of the best known names in American dance music.
The album we’re listening to this week is exactly ten years old, and it wasn’t long after that that I came across it in a little record shop somewhere halfway across the world, and was rather taken by the sound.
Emotional Technology opens with a little one-minute piece called The Meeting of a Hundred Yang, made up mainly of backwards vocal and instrument samples, and then before you know it this jumps into the first proper track Knowledge of Self. It’s got some great harsh industrial bass and backing noises, but apart from that it’s mainly a person saying, “If you want some, come and get some.”
Superfabulous comes next, something of an improvement, although actress Rose McGowan‘s vocal, although pleasant enough, isn’t anything particularly special unfortunately. What makes this album great is its production.
This really comes to the fore with the next track Simply Being Loved (Somnambulist), which apparently appears in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most vocal edits in a single song. You don’t really need to know that, because it’s a great song too, but it is a pretty good fact, and it makes for a really unusual song, peppered as it is with weird broken vocal sounds.
The longer and more traditional BT sound returns with The Force of Gravity, actually a slightly disappointing and overlong piece until the chorus finally turns up halfway through. “Do you cry your eyes to sleep?” asks vocalist JC Chasez. Well no actually, I don’t, because I don’t actually know what that means.
Dark Heart Dawning is an unassuming track to follow, with slide guitar and a gloomy vocal, but it’s actually another great song; one of the highlights of the album actually. I highlighted the production earlier, but when all the elements come together, with a strong piece of songwriting and intriguing production too, that’s when this album is truly special.
Subsequent tracks The Great Escape and PARIS are rather less remarkable, although still entirely pleasant, but Circles gets things going again. Ostensibly a catchy little pop/rock song, it has a great chorus, although the clarification of “Our love is cyclical: it moves in circles,” does seem slightly unnecessary.
Significantly, and perhaps unusually, this is also an album which increases in quality towards the end. The later weaker tracks Last Moment of Clarity and Communicate are better than those at the top of the album, although the general trend of making songs drag on for rather longer than they ought to does continue.
The penultimate track is Animals, another piece in the style of a rock ballad, which, perhaps surprisingly, is a style which suits BT well. Lyrically it’s not great (I think it’s mainly something about “pretty animals”), but it’s still a strong track, and another of my favourites on the album.
For the last track though, he pulls all his tricks out of the box – another dance-rock ballad, with intriguing production, and also a great lyric, The Only Constant is Change is probably the best track on the album, and is a wonderful way to close it out.
There are two different sleeves for this album – the American version (on iTunes below) features a weirdly smug photo of BT sitting on a bench, but if like me you find that slightly offputting, go for the international version instead. Emotional Technology may be a little hit-and-miss at times, but nevertheless it really is a fascinating album, and when it hits the right note, it really is very good.
You can find Emotional Technology and the rest of BT‘s back catalogue in all the usual places, including at iTunes here.