And now for an artist who serves as a good metaphor about fishes and the size of the ponds they inhabit.
What is it?
Movement In Still Life is the late 1999 album release by the electronica artist who goes by his initials, BT. For the purposes of this entry I should clarify I’m talking about the US version, which is radically different from the UK version both in song selection and in having the tracks clearly distinct from one another instead of cross-faded together.
How does it sound?
She says, the sampler mix is coming:
Why this pick?
Let’s be clear: I resisted this pick. I wanted one of the later records but by the time I was looking at the balance between decades in this year’s version of the project I realized I needed the 1990s option.
It’s not a bad record, by any means, but it’s the first “big hit” record and I tried to shy away from those for the most part.
Ah well. As introductions to BT’s work go, it’s certainly accessible and acceptable. I like a lot of this record, and if you’re unfamiliar with BT then Movement is a great jumping-on point.
Which songs are the highlights?
“Madskillz” and “Never Gonna Come Back Down” and “Smartbomb” are high energy pick-me-up go-get-it tracks, worthy of any given uptempo mood-improvement playlist you want to make.
“Dreaming” and “Running Down The Way Up” are marvelous examples of a type of electronica piece I’ve written about a couple of times during this project, the “dude with synthesizers hires a woman to sing some words on top of his tune.” This is literally 1990s euro-techno in its purest form.
And then there’s “Satellite,” which is just absolutely beautiful.
Which songs don’t work so well?
“Shame” doesn’t quite gel; there’s the germ of a good idea in it, but the existing result isn’t worth it.
The album closes with “Love on Haight Street,” which is a bit more of a rap-focused piece than I tend to like. Your mileage may vary. (Also: The lyrics mention “Don Trump” at one point. Sigh.)
Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?
My original plan was to tackle the pair of These Hopeful Machines and These Humble Machines, which I think is an interesting exercise in contrasting the artsy and the commercial sides of BT’s output. I still don’t know which I’d end up actually recommending to the casual listener; I’m not sure that the “normalized” Humble works better than the artsy original Hopeful, and it’s been a few years now since their releases.
Some other time, perhaps.
I mention the contrasting aspects of BT’s releases sort of as a warning: If what you want is peppy dance music, you have to choose carefully from among the available BT records. If what you want is atmospheric experimental electronica, you have to choose carefully from among the available BT records. Someone who finishes Movement In Still Life and finds themselves in love with the upbeat energy of it, then runs out to pick up, say, This Binary Universe, is probably going to be confused and frustrated.
The Machines releases seem to try to either bridge that gap or deliberately muddy the waters, I’m not sure which.
Any final thoughts?
When I talk to a normal person who isn’t the type to wind up in random corners of the Internet scouring for odd musical acts to get into, and I mention BT, I get a blank look. When I talk to someone who’s heavily into electronica, and I mention BT, I get a sigh with a possible addition of eye-rolling.
If you’re into this stuff, well, BT is everywhere (or was, anyway). If you’re not, he’s a nobody. Fame is relative, yeah?
Part of BT’s relative fame comes from his use of what he calls a “stutter edit.” One could argue that Movement In Still Life is an album-length advertisement for the technique, and for the digital audio software plugin of the same name.