BT – A Song Across Wires Album Review
A Song Across Wires Album Review
I recently had the amazing opportunity to sit down and listen to BT’s new album ‘A Song Across Wires’ and if I had to pick just one album to purchase this year, this would be it.The astonishing thing for me is that this album is completely fresh and different yet so undeniably BT. The first electronic music album I ever purchased was ‘ESCM’ by BT and even as I listened to ‘A Song Across Wires’ yesterday and today I can still hear elements of that BT style I originally fell in love with, 16 years later. I say it is completely fresh because BT is reaching into all genres, looking for new sounds, and incorporating them into this album. And although BT has always dabbled with any and all things that spark his interest, he’s got stylistic influences on this album that he’s never officially released in the past and sounds that I’ve literally never heard anywhere before. That’s exciting!
The album kicks off with the second-released single, ‘Skylarking’, that hit Beatport in February this year and immediately sets the tone for the album. We know this is a BT album with the kind of atmosphere he builds right from the beginning; it is airy and open, softly ringing chimes in the distance gently brush against your eardrums. BT is no stranger to generating these kinds of atmospheric musical experiences in his past albums and fear not, despite the forays he makes into different genres, ‘Skylarking’ reminds us of that uniquely BT experience that is stronger than ever in ‘A Song Across Wires’.
The transitions in this album are another hallmark of the legendary BT. As ‘Skylarking’ ends it gently melts into the soundscape and we are lost in stasis as sounds emerge and disappear into the background. From this landscape, a pad starts to wind up and suddenly it drops us into BT’s new track with JES entitled ‘Letting Go’. Here’s a surprise for you: the half-time tempo and snare hits on 1 and 3 technically ally this to the dubstep genre, but if you’ve never heard BT make dubstep you are in for a treat. JES’s vocals soar through the high end on a bed of airy strings as the mid and bass tones growl and flutter generating ear candy in all of the frequencies. This is a producer cutting loose and having fun bending genres into whatever interests him and it is absolutely stunning to hear.
The transition between the lower tempo of ‘Letting Go’ and the upbeat 4/4 rhythm of ‘Tomahawk’ is absolutely seamless. Suddenly we find ourselves back in trance land with a pure and pounding kick drum. Those of us who have listened to BT’s set from EDC 2012 on endless repeat will know ‘Tomahawk’ by heart as his electrifying opening track (but we can finally have it in high fidelity!). It is every bit as groovy as it was the first time I heard it and the contrast between the soaring string builds and the heavy-hitting drops in this track will get you moving no matter where you are. The middle sections are loaded with bassy growls and lovely audio textures that make me think of a much more mature and experienced Mord Fustang.
BT’s new collaboration with South Korean K-Pop star Bada entitled ‘City Life’ is a totally different venture. The pace of the album really changes at the beginning of this song as we drop about 50 bpm and the instrumentation changes completely. A variety of airy plucks, tom drums, and a wood flute really give the impression of the orient, but the driving beat returns after the opening verse and with the first drop, the kick drum and the complex BT synths return creating a pleasing stylistic blend.
Stem the Tides
‘Stem the Tides’ is one the two collaborations BT did with TyDi on this album. It emerges out of the fading ‘City Life’ with a percussion drop and we’re carried forward by a guitar playing chords in the open atmosphere and the lovely vocals of Tania Zygar,
It’s crashing within me, no words to say, I can’t speak, you make me a little crazy, stem the tides, I’m ready.”
As we enter the first verse, the space closes in and we’re driven by a powerful kick drum until the song opens back up at the chorus. The final driving verse of this song even makes me think back a bit to the middle sections of that classic trance anthem ‘Flaming June’.
Next is BT’s second collaboration with TyDi featuring the vocals of JES, ‘Tonight’. This is a song I’ve been waiting more than a year to get my hands on after I first heard it in BT’s EDC set from 2012. ‘Stem the Tides’ unravels into a soundscape of strings, clicks and whirrs before it winds back up and ‘Tonight’ appears from the mist with a strong piano hit and with the voice of JES. The beat picks up with a kick drum and a clap sharing the same beat pattern: a 4-to-the floor pattern with a triplet turnaround every second bar that serves to build the energy of the song up. As BT himself said,
This is probably the first record I’ve ever made in my career that is focused solely on a club/festival environment
And it is easy to imagine hearing this song in a club or festival. The simultaneously uplifting and tragic lyrics are the kind we’d sing out that one special summer night at a festival while knowing that we’re having the best time of our lives but knowing also that it must eventually end…Tonight, our night, our night, tonight, I’ll remember always. Tonight, our night, our night, tonight I’ll remember it always.
‘Love Devine’ with Stefan Dabruck & Christian Burns drops in with a high energy synth arpeggio and the amazing vocal tracks done by BT, himself. The lyrics and the chorus of this song lift you up and fill you with energy. It is undeniably a song for dance floors around the world that will set your heart free.
‘Surrounded’ by BT and Aqualung is the 3rd single that was released off the album just a couple of weeks ago. The atmosphere changes when the song drops into a close driving beat. The song takes off as the filters come off of the synths and it slowly builds up to the peak of the song. The moment of silence just before the drop is poignant and perfect like the moment of stillness at the peak of a stone’s flight before we enter audio free-fall. In the second drop BT unleashes all of the swoops and whirrs in the bassline that will tickle your stomach and lungs on a well-tuned sound system.
Those of us who’ve been obsessing over the BT guest mix from Above and Beyond’s Group Therapy Radio episode 026 will recognize ‘Vervoeren’ as his opening track and what an opener it was! After the track sinks down into the bridge it slowly builds to a monumental climax of synths and strings that will send shivers coursing through your body. Hearing this one on the dance floor is a total immersion in sound unlike any other.
Calling Your Name
BT’s track with Tritonal and Emma Hewitt ‘Calling Your Name’ was another totally new song for me and it is absolutely thunderous. The synths that BT is using in the second drop of this song are unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, layered with a tremolo effect that is fascinating and aesthetically appealing. The middle section changes to half time and is just loaded with ear candy in a style similar to the album’s second track, ‘Letting Go’.
Must Be The Love
His collaboration with Arty and Nadia Ali, ‘Must Be The Love’ was the first single to be released from the album and we all know and cherish it. It opens with the distort/interpolate effect that BT produced with the CDP programming language. As Nadia Ali’s voice slowly winds up from the particles of a sound wave into the full sound itself, the song takes off. The lyrics are heart-wrenchingly beautiful and uplifting in the tradition of BT songs like ‘Love Comes Again’ and ‘A Million Stars’ as he tells us that as we live on we will find love and we will heal, “The scars within my heart are fading, bit by bit, I’m healed, the more I let go, the more I am whole, this time it’s for real.” This song is iconic and timeless.
The final song, ‘Lifeline’ featuring Senadee is my favorite new song from the album and a perfect conclusion to the story we have traveled from the first track to this point. It is more closely aligned with that classic BT sound. It lifts you up emotionally. It doesn’t have so much stylistic audio complexity in terms of editing and stuttering effects that create that electro style sound but it certainly does not lack for it. As ‘Lifeline’ concludes, BT allows the album to gently fade out into the distance as it is replaced with sounds of the forest at night and thunder rumbling in the distance. We have the impression that this musical journey emerged from the soundscape of the world around it and then slowly returned from whence it came.
I was absolutely floored by these 12 tracks. BT is reaching out into all of the genres that interest him and from these elements he coalesces music that is stylistically his own; much in the same way that the album itself seems to coalesce from the soundscape of the world around it, as it emerges at the beginning of the first track and finally dissipates into the air at the end of the last.
‘A Song Across Wires’ is another masterpiece from a producer who lets his passion and his curiosity drive his art. It brought tears to my eyes the first time I listened to it. It has a heartbeat that beats in time with our own. It is constructed in a story that can be listened to in entirety from start to finish (as all BT albums) even while the tracks are fully functional on their own and sure to tear the roofs off of festivals across the globe. Pre-Order it today on iTunes or grab it from a local retailer for yourselves August 16th.
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