By Jacob Katel
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By Jacob Katel
Folks fortunate enough to chat with electronic-music maestro Brian Transeau, who performs as BT, should keep a dictionary nearby, because they'll probably need it. For instance, he explains a technique called circuit-bending by noting that "it's the first time, I think, that electronic musicians are able to work with something that's completely stochastic. Normally we don't have access to any kind of aleatoric modalities."
Stochastic, for those who don't use the term in everyday conversation, means "something that's random yet not entirely directionless," while aleatoric is defined as "pertaining to luck." But even though BT possesses an extremely scientific mind with a vocabulary to match he also has a common touch. Consider that his favorite type of circuit-bending involves electronic playthings borrowed from his infant daughter, Kaia. The gadgets that were "creatively broken" for This Binary Universe, a recently released two-disc set, include a robot-impersonating megaphone, a Speak & Spell, and a LeapFrog LittleTouch pad "that sounds like fucking Autechre when it crashes," he enthuses.
BT and a couple of partners spent more than two years building Break Tweaker, a surround-sound drum machine for Universe. He says the device is "capable of operating on practically a molecular level literally 2048th notes that wind down logarithmically to 256th notes over a single bar." Likewise it took him six months to complete "All That Makes Us Human Continues," which he wrote entirely in computer code. Yet despite their interior complexity, cuts such as the sentimental "Good Morning Kaia" are designed to connect with listeners on an emotional level. In BT's words: "None of this shit matters if it doesn't make people feel something."