Review Summary: Highly accessible, a record to enjoy singularly or through a glo-stick illuminated, sweat-drenched raveThis Binary Universe
was not only a defining electronic record of 2006, but it may even be remembered centuries from now - and with good reason, as it far exceeded all expectations fans and colleagues alike had for Brian Transeau (aka "BT"). Mastered in 5.1 surround sound, it was a sprawling, cross-genre piece of epic proportions - jazz, downbeat, house, ambient, and even classical-bent soundtrack influence, it was all there. This alone is the primary detractor from These Hopeful Machines
. It's not that BT fails in any sense of the word - quite the contrary actually. His latest machination is bound to have lasting appeal on top of the electronic charts, in the clubs, and all over the globe in places where people actually care about their house music.
And most of those places will absolutely adore the infectious pop-come-breakbeat breakdowns of These Hopeful Machines
. Gone are the experimental qualities of BT's past - the sweeping orchestrations, trademarked stutters, and IDM breaks - in their place are driving club anthems, soaring vocals, and a compositional structure that forgoes the unique traits of Binary Universe
for glo-sticks and addictive appeal. This isn't so much intelligent dance music as it is dance music that's intelligent; the stutters are still here but in more of a breaks application, and the glitch-laden nature of BT's work is (as always) everpresent. Most specifically, Transeau aptly applies his 80s synth-pop upbringing; "Enjoy the Silence" era Depeche Mode is here in full, especially on cuts like "Suddenly" and "Love Can Kill You". Even some of the vocal performances channel an immature version of Dave Gahan himself (Christian Burns on the opener and what seems to be Transeau himself). While some of these featured performers detract slightly from the overall artistic endeavor (JES on "Every Other Way" is an apposite example of this), most are appropriate in emphasizing the current mood.
In contrast, "Rose of Jericho" brings back fond memories of its experimental precursor: glitching off-tempo beats, phase changes, volume swells, and nearly wet ambient atmospherics abound. "Le Nocturne De Lumiere" acts as an IDM representative on the second disc as well - but this time from a more brooding perspective, post-something in its appeal. And this conversely brings to mind a serious detractor. These Hopeful Machines
is long. Too long, and them some, with almost two hours worth of somewhat shallow pop-slanted electronica and an average song length of close to ten minutes. It's almost impossible to listen to the entire thing in one sitting, especially without rewinding to the stronger tracks.
Even though he may be taking a few steps back here, this time around there's no mistake: BT can effectively morph his compositional talents to be all-encompassing. These Hopeful Machines
is accessible to all, a record one can not only enjoy listening to singularly, but also a sweat-drenched midnight rave. It's apparent through his discography that Transeau is a modern genius of electronic music and this chameleon-like ability to please any given audience is an incredible skill, yet also undesirable for fans of his previous works.
"Rose of Jericho"
"Love Can Kill You"
"Le Nocturne De Lumiere"