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American producer and musician Brian Transeau (who is mainly known by his initials) has led a lengthy, multifaceted career spanning not only dance and pop music, but also software development and composition work for film, television, video games, and more. Known as a pioneer of trance and progressive house during the ’90s, he released ambitious, highly acclaimed albums such as 1995’s Ima and 1997′s ESCM, and scored worldwide club hits with tracks like “Blue Skies,” his 1996 collaboration with Tori Amos. By the end of the decade, he began moving away from trance and toward nu skool breaks, releasing the hip-hop-influenced Movement in Still Life in 1999. He achieved major success scoring hit films such as Go (1999) and The Fast and the Furious (2001), in addition to producing *NSYNC’s major 2001 hit “Pop.” BT’s 21st century albums have ranged from more pop-influenced, guest-heavy efforts like 2003′s Emotional Technology and 2010′s These Hopeful Machines to more experimental, less commercial works like the orchestral This Binary Universe (2006) and _ (2016). Heavily involved in music production technology, Transeau founded software company Sonik Architects and designed plug-ins related to his signature stutter edit. He founded synth pop duo All Hail the Silence with singer Christian Burns in 2012, and their debut album, Daggers, was released in 2019.
Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Transeau started playing piano at an early age and was attending the Washington Conservatory of Music by the time he was eight. Even while he was studying string arrangement and orchestration, Transeau listened to Depeche Mode and Yes. He attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston for one year, but then dropped out and moved to Los Angeles in order to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. Realizing that producing electronic music was his true passion, he was soon back in Washington, D.C., where he hooked up with longtime friend Ali Shirazinia’s new Deep Dish production team. He had already played synthesizer for albums by Salt-N-Pepa and Tyler Collins before debuting on Deep Dish Records with two 1993 singles under his full name, “A Moment of Truth” and “Relativity.” His first single as BT, “Embracing the Future,” was released that year by Musicnow Records.
The tracks became club hits in Britain, routinely played by super DJs like Sasha and Paul Oakenfold for their epic, symphonic qualities, which worked well as a sort of climax at clubs like Cream and Ministry of Sound. Signed to Oakenfold’s Perfecto Records, BT continued his success with 1995 singles like “Embracing the Sunshine” and “Loving You More,” and did remix work for Mike Oldfield, Seal, and Billie Ray Martin. His debut album, Ima, was a hit with British audiences, though Transeau’s name remained largely unheard in his native land.
One 1996 remix largely changed that. Transeau’s collaboration with Tori Amos, “Blue Skies,” became a massive club hit in America and Great Britain. By 1997, England received a wave of pop hits in the same vein pioneered by Transeau; dubbed dream house, artists like Robert Miles and Sash! typified the approach with a wash of new age or prog-influenced synthesizers and a chugging beat indebted to trance. Transeau himself attempted to distance himself from the style with his 1997 album follow-up, ESCM, which incorporated elements of drum’n’bass as well as live instrumentation and string arrangements.
Movement in Still Life followed in 1999, moving away from trance toward breaks but also exploring hip-hop and alternative rock. BT marked time between albums with high-profile production work, including *NSYNC’s chart hit “Pop” and several songs recorded for Britney Spears’ 2001 album Britney. Two remix collections (Still Life in Motion and R&R) appeared in 2001, and a career retrospective titled 10 Years in the Life was released in 2002. Emotional Technology, which featured collaborations with JC Chasez, Charmed actress Rose McGowan, and guitarist Richard Fortus, appeared in 2003. BT was also moving beyond his own musical sphere during this time by venturing into film. Following his previous work for Go and The Fast and the Furious, his score Music from and Inspired by the Film Monster was released in spring 2004. His 2006 effort, This Binary Universe, continued his exploration of other genres with ambient music and more experimental sounds filling the album. A tour with Thomas Dolby followed.
In late 2009, BT announced he was putting the finishing touches on a double album, These Hopeful Machines. The effort was released the following year and featured appearances by Stewart Copeland, Kirsty Hawkshaw, and JES. It received a 2011 Grammy nomination. A one-disc edit (These Humble Machines) and a two-disc remix (These Re-Imagined Machines) arrived months later. By the end of that year, SiriusXM aired the first episode of his Laptop Symphony program, featuring BT’s hand-selected play lists of up-to-date club music. A mix album of the same title was later issued. 2012 proved to be busy for BT. In addition to starting a synth pop project with Vince Clarke and Christian Burns — which they called All Hail the Silence — BT composed a pair of minimalist ambient collections, If the Stars Are Eternal So Are You and I and Morceau Subrosa. His ninth LP, A Song Across Wires, plunged BT back into the club world. JES returned for the effort, along with Aqualung and Christian Burns. Wires broke into the Top 10 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic and Heatseekers charts.
In 2015, BT unveiled his Electronic Opus collection, an album of previously released tracks like “Dreaming” and “Skylarking” reimagined as symphonic remixes. BT scored the music for Shanghai Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, which premiered in 2016. His tenth full-length arrived later in the year. Originally untitled, BT would dub it _. Recorded in the United States, Iceland, China, Bora Bora, Japan, and Australia, _ was split into three sections — Artifacture, Indivism, and Ω — and returned BT to the world of atmospheric ambient soundscapes. His first score for a Bollywood film, Ittefaq, was released in 2018. Daggers, the debut full-length by All Hail the Silence, appeared in early 2019. He closed out the year with the release of the ambient Between Here and You and Everything You're Searching for Is on the Other Side of Fear. Continuing straight into a new decade, he released a series of singles in 2020 leading up to his 13th official set, The Lost Art of Longing. In addition to appearances by Matt Fax, Iraina Mancini, and Emma Hewitt, the album also featured “Red Lights” with his All Hail group mate, Christian Burns. ~ John Bush