0010. BT – This Binary Universe [2006]

BT_-_This_Binary_Universe_album_cover

This album is mind-blowing for a couple reasons.  One big reason is that BT released a special edition with a DVD that contained not only music videos for each of the 7 songs, but the music was mixed in DTS surround sound!  I’ll tell ya, that is a big disappointment of mine as far as the evolution of music goes.  I wish that the Super Audio format had caught on, I wish that people weren’t so attached to MP3s that they pay CD prices for cassette quality music on iTunes, and I wish that more music was/would be mixed in surround.

 

I actually got a chance to mix a song in surround when I was in college down at Full Sail.  I thought it was a lot of fun and it sounded amazing.  I was actually turned on to this album by a teacher of mine (one of my favorites), Tom Todia.  He sometimes played a music video before class, perhaps to set the mood, and on one such occasion, he played the video for The Anti-kythera Mechanism.  Mind you, these classes were all set up with surround sound speakers, so we were all able to experience the music properly.  It was so, so beautiful, as are all the tracks and videos of this album.

 

The first time I watched all the videos on the surround DVD was when a girl named Sunny Rae came to visit me in Florida.  I may elaborate on who this girl was to me at some point in this blog, but I’ll keep it brief for now.  Anyway, this girl and I shared an extraordinarily powerful love, and watching these videos with her is one of my absolute favorite memories of all my life.  We cried together during the last video for the song Good Morning Kaia.  That song still gets me every time.

 

The next time I watched the DVD was when I was tripping on acid.  I was with my ex-girlfriend Vera and a neighbor of ours named Charlie.  I thought the acid would somehow enhance the music and/or visuals, but it didn’t really do much.  Maybe I didn’t do enough or something.  Anyway, I was just at a point where I was tired of keeping such beauty to myself.  I felt like sharing it with them, even though it didn’t have the impact of the first time with Sunny Rae.

 

The third time was a day after my father died.  I was specifically looking forward to See You On The Other Side and Good Morning Kaia.  I had spent most of the day sobbing my eyes out, and I really needed this soothing album to calm me down.  I watched it with my mother and my friend Tiffany who was living with us at the time.  I don’t know if it affected either of them very much, but it really helped me.

 

The most recent time was this past January 5th, one year after my father died.  I’m not a particularly ceremonious person, but sometimes I just feel compelled to do something meaningful in remembrance of someone.  This album was it.  I watched it with my mother again, and my fiancé.  My mother criticized the music as being too simplistic, but I think she feels that way about all electronic music.  I suppose she’s a bit too old-fashioned for this album.

 

Anyway, be sure to click on the picture of the album cover at the top.  It’ll take you to my podcast site where you can hear this album (in stereo) along with the 10th album of the official 1,001 Albums list: Thelonious Monk’s “Brilliant Corners.”  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about this album:

 

Wikipedia Says:

 

This Binary Universe is the fifth studio album by composer andelectronica artist BT, and was released on August 29, 2006. The album was a significant about-face for Transeau, largely abandoning the progressive trance music he was known for, in favor of ambient soundscapes, live orchestration and glitch music. It is the first BT album not to be released on vinyl, nor feature any singles (though an edit of “1.618” was featured on a compilation). The album was also composed specifically for DTS 5.1 surround sound. A film version of the album received a limited theatrical run, usually accompanied by appearances by Transeau himself. The album is dedicated to Transeau’s daughter, Kaia. The album’s artwork makes nods to binary by spelling BT’s name in morse code on the cover, as well as using additional morse code on the DVD menus.

Overview

Prior to This Binary Universe, BT was at the forefront of the trance scene, creating and producing a wealth of popular singles for himself and others, including “Pop” for pop group *NSYNC. BT’s most successful album, Emotional Technology saw the beginning of a more introspective and mature sound, which carried over to the soundtracks Transeau was producing at the time, including those for the films Stealth and Monster; these film scores featured minimal beats, lush orchestration and significant use of piano and acoustic guitar. Spurred by these newfound sonic boundaries and the birth of his daughter Kaia, Transeau created an entirely downtempo album of original works, mainly as lullabies for his daughter. Kaia also sat in Transeau’s lap throughout most of the production on the album, and can indeed be seen in several studios with Transeau in the included video for “Good Morning Kaia”.

With This Binary Universe, Transeau sought to further his compositional skills, seeking out inspiration from indie rock and jazz, using their chord progressions and song structures.[1] The album makes extensive use of circuit bending, which consists of intentionally mis-wiring and short-circuiting keyboards and children’s toys to obtain interesting sequences of sounds that are later processed and time-corrected. Many of the beats and rhythms in the album were created by computer programs Brian Transeau developed himself to produce the effects he wanted, including Stutter Edit and Break Tweaker. Stutter Edit has since been released byiZotope, who acquired BT’s software company Sonik Architects in 2010.[2]

“All That Makes Us Human Continues” was written entirely in Csound, a music sequencer written in the programming language C, over a period of six months. Several tracks also feature a full 110-piece orchestra; most notably, “The Antikythera Mechanism”, which features the orchestra both in original and beat stuttered forms. The only traces left of previous BT albums are the closing minutes of “The Internal Locus”, with its pronounced hip hop beat, and album closer “Good Morning Kaia”, an ambient rock number filled with ocean sounds that is dedicated to his daughter.[3]

Reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
About.com 4.5/5 stars [4]
Tastyfresh (8.7/10) [5]
TranceCritic.com 4.5/5 stars [6]
Sputnikmusic 4.5/5 stars [7]
GetGlue (very positive) [8]
Progressive-Sounds 9/10 stars [9]

This Binary Universe was a critical success, with several reviewers praising the new sonic directions and sensibilities, and favourable reviews appearing not only in mainstream print but also in instrument and electronic music publications, such as Keyboard Magazine. Being a low-key release, commercial success was minimal. John Diliberto, his Amazon.com editorial review, wrote favorably of the album, saying, “BT reveals himself as a master of Eno-esque melancholy, as simple melodies evolve through an electro-orchestral instrumental palette.” After praising the album’s many styles, he concluded his review by stating, “This Binary Universe may be the first ambient symphony of the 21st century.”[10]

Track listing

CD

No. Title Length
1. “All That Makes Us Human Continues” 8:15
2. “Dynamic Symmetry” 11:23
3. “The Internal Locus” 10:27
4. “1.618” 11:34
5. “See You on the Other Side” 14:23
6. “The Antikythera Mechanism” 10:06
7. “Good Morning Kaia” 8:11

DVD

The included DVD contains the entire album in DTS 5.1 surround sound as an audio-only portion, as well as a short film to accompany each song. Four of these short films were created by CG graphics artist Scott Pagano, one by Mondi, one by Dose Productions, and the last consists of Transeau’s personal footage of his daughter and himself. The short films included were given a limited theatrical promotion, containing new footage to join the segments together. During the theatre run, BT himself would attend, watching the film with the audience and answering questions before and after each screening.

The films ran the gamut of cinematography, from live action (“Good Morning Kaia”) to computer generated animation (“1.618”) and traditional animation (“The Internal Locus”). Several videos feature mathematical animations; most notably the fractals in “The Antikythera Mechanism” and use of the golden ratiothroughout “1.618”. “Good Morning Kaia” consists entirely of footage shot by Transeau of himself and his daughter, at home and on vacation, while a personal message from Transeau to Kaia scrolls across the screen.

“1.618” was included as one of the default music videos on the Zune digital media player. Copies of the album from online retailers (such as the iTunes Store) include only the videos for “Dynamic Symmetry” and “1.618”.

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