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BT - The Binary Universe

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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BT - The Binary Universe

BT - The Binary Universe

Digital Sound

The first time I ever experienced BT was when I first heard the song "Dreaming" and I was blown away by its simple beauty and the complexity of the music. Since then, I have discovered that BT is not just another DJ but a true musician who strives to create music that breaks down music boundaries and escapes genre labeling. Of course before then he was known for such work like Blue Skies, which he collaborated on with Tori Amos. What Brian Transeau is known best for though is his experimentation with music and his ability to create his own software and instruments- a pioneer of the time correction technique along with creating the BT stutter. So it would only make sense for him to venture into creating a CD being released in 5.1 surround sound. This CD is called This Binary Universe and it is his fifth studio album.

The album features a mix of many genres, including jazz, breakbeats, and classical music. Three songs feature a full 110-piece orchestra. BT has said that the album has a lullaby-like quality, inspired by his newborn daughter (who spent a lot of time with him during the creative process). The CD is also accompanied by a DVD that contains animated videos, created to accompany each song, which take full advantage of DTS 5.1 surround sound. This Binary Universe makes extensive usage of a technique called circuit bending to achieve a completely random sequence of sounds that is then time-corrected to keep the rhythm and beat of the song.

This CD is devoid of the techno thumps and breakbeats that are usually found in BT's past albums in hope of creating a thematic and intricate soundscape.

The opening track on the CD begins with "All That Makes Us Human Continues" and this is where you begin to notice the absence of the traditional techno- and, in fact, BT does not even introduce his signature stutter edits for a full four minutes into the piece. What he does is use chimes to create music that swells into a discordant break that transforms into a more guitar-driven melody. The guitar is played over industrial samples similar to those found on BT's Mercury and Solace.

The next single is "Dynamic Symmetry," and it exemplifies the measured pace with which BT introduces each theme. He uses acoustic percussion that blends in with jazz piano chords to accentuate the jazz theme of the song. The source of Binary's inspiration makes her debut on Symmetry, as samples of BT's daughter Kaia with samples of the infant's voice. The song concludes with an uptempo layering of industrial/electronic audio before returning to the jazz theme once more.

On the track "Internal Locus," the sound of rain is accompanied by moody piano chords that progress into melancholy but are suddenly ended by a majestic string arrangement and oriental chimes. The final two minutes are ushered in by another drastic change into a techno bass theme driven by a funky beat that fades out to end with the rain once more. The fourth track "1.618" begins with a full minute and twenty seconds of orchestral tuning that eventually blends into buzzing insects which give way to an acoustic guitar that collides with a charged electronic tempo. This builds for a bit, but rather than delivering with the hard beat you are sure it should, the track smooths out once again, reverting back to the guitar lead. Perhaps the most melodically satisfying composition on Binary, "1.618" ends with sequence of beautifully layered guitar and bass variations.

On the track "See You on The Other Side," listening may require some patience since it continues for more than 14 minutes. The first sounds are those of nursery chimes that go with the lullaby theme of the album. BT uses a guitar line that blends the nursery chimes into a somewhat hypnotic electronic percussion arrangement. The ending is marked with dramatic guitar chords that wind down with the chimes that carried the beginning of the song. "Anhtkythera Mechanism" offers a far more direct introduction than the other tracks by using sounds from pianos and banjos with a less ambient sound.

It's here that we see a bit of the old BT with his use of the traditional BT stutter and the industrial sounds prevalent through some of his earlier albums. Like the other songs on this CD, the transition doesn't last long before changing once again into the string arrangements that were used in "Internal Locust."

The last track is "Good Morning Kaia" is perhaps the most beautiful track and its melody is introduced immediately and builds by using traditional rock-styled percussion and electric guitar that adds emotion to the track. What really adds to this track is the vocal work of BT's daughter which gives the track beauty and love and the reason for creating this album.

This Binary Universe is definitely a departure to his more mainstream music but, like his work on the soundtrack Monster, this album shows the sheer brilliance of BT and his ability to manipulate music in any way and create beautiful, inspiring work. While this album will not appeal to those who are looking for the typical generic dance or trance music, those who are a true fan of what Transeau does will definitely be pleased with what he has created on this CD and the visual treat that he has added with the DVD. The tracks are complex and intricate and their subtlety gets better on each listen while providing a rich soundscape with lush and diverse music. To me, the evolution of an artist should aspire to this level at one point in their career. I think this album will one day be viewed as an important piece of electronica for our time.

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