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DTS presents
BT: This Binary Universe (2006)

"I will watch you understand"
- onscreen text from Good Morning Kaia

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: September 08, 2006

Stars: BT
Other Stars: Brian Trifon, Mike Dimattia
Director: BT

Manufacturer: DTS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:16m:57s
Release Date: August 29, 2006
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ B+A-A+ A-

DVD Review

BT is the nom de plume of Brian Transeau, one of those multi-hyphenated composer-producer-musician types who has done everything from work with Britney Spears, David Bowie and Seal to compose film scores (Go, The Fast and the Furious, Monster, Stealth) to release electronic CDs under his own name (or initials, at least). His bio boldly says he is credited as "the pioneer of trance music", which seems like a rather weighty claim to fame, and I'm not here to really argue whether that's true or not, because plain and simple I just don't know.

I can't vouch for the whole pioneer/trance thing, but I did try to learn a little about This Binary Universe, BT's DVD/CD combo platter release from DTS, in which the artist is given the full spectrum of the digital canvas to create upon. This two-disc set includes a full-length audio CD, as well as the featured act, a DVD version of BT's latest creation, with anamorphic widescreen video clips to accompany each track, each presented in an encompassing DTS mix. And over the course of 75+ minutes there is a cross-section of quiet ambient electronic noodling augmented by assorted by harsher digital edit effects that can suddenly shift into jazz-themed riffs at a moment's notice, with tracks that easily stretch into the ten-minute long area.

But that's not to say BT is just another studio hack, piecing together oddball scraps into a semi-arty heap, because underneath the swirling digital shifts and arcs lurks a Brian Eno-ish set of intelligent musical construction principles that link the various genres that come together here. And by releasing this as a DVD, with the corresponding videos for each track, BT has wisely moved a notch or two up the electronic evolutionary ladder, because a release like this will appeal not just to his fanbase, but to home theater nuts hungry for anything DTS. And so goes the spread of the virus, as it were.

The video clips are a mixed bag, similar yet different, all presenting a wash of hypnotic images that can be either live action, digital or traditional animation (or anything combination of the above), or in the case of Good Morning Kaia, a series of stylized home movie clips of BT and his daughter. Sometimes the visuals are like a massive digital kaleidoscope, a set of pretty shapes and colors pulling us along like an old-fashioned laser light show, or as with Dynamic Symmetry and its Iron Giant-like mechanical insects, follow more of a recognizable theme. I didn't necessarily absorb all of the Fibonnaci number's references in 1.618 or the true meaning of ancient Greek computer of The Anhtkythera Mechanism, but that's where what I like to think of as BT's Eno-isms surface to lend an intelligence to what some might just consider a strange mixture of sight and sound. There are, indeed, layers here, depending on how far one wants to look.

A once-over glance might dismiss This Binary Universe as something akin to new age ramblings, but to be honest that would be an uneducated, unfair dismissal. Is it an example of futuristic composing? Is it a highbrow soundtrack to something that hasn't happened? Beats me. I don't have to be an ardent follower of the current experimental electronic genre—and I'm clearly not, stuck as I am with my dated Brian Eno references—to appreciate something that attempts to do more than just be a background soundscape. With this DVD/CD presentation, BT has grasped the concept of how to get the digital word out.

Track List:

All That Makes Us Human Continues
Dynamic Symmetry
The Internal Locus
See You On The Other Side
The Anhtkythera Mechanism
Good Morning Kaia

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The video clips for each of the seven tracks are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Most of these are a mixture of live action and computer animation, and the quality can sometimes take on intentional artistic distress, all as part of a given track's stylistic ebb and flow. The transfers are all solid in their own right, offering just some modest occasional grain. Color levels and depth do vary accordingly from track to track, with a clip like Dynamic Symmetry likely the showcase visual here, simply in terms of detail and palette.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Audio options on the DVD are PCM 2.0 stereo or DTS. No beef at all with the perfectly suitable PCM track, but a release such as this is really built on the strength and range of the surround mix, and the DTS option here delivers all the perfunctory deep bass and casually aggressive multi-channel activity one would expect. It's full of a pleasant sounding subtle fullness, one that fits with the alternatingly gentle and discordant sounds, with none of that showy we're-mixing-this-in-5.1 that sometimes overshadows things on other titles like this.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 7 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 7 cues and remote access
Packaging: other
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: This two-disc collection is housed in a hinged CD jewel case, with a white slipcase cover perforated with five small cutout shapes. The inside cover art carries the release's iconic image of the robotic creatures featured in the Dynamic Symmetry animation, while an insert booklet carries assorted images from the different video clips.

In addition to the DVD, this set also comes with a standard issue old-school format audio CD version of This Binary Universe.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

I'm on the fence about this as a standalone musical release, but I sense this is one of those discs that takes some time to get in synch with. I can certainly appreciate BT's ability to barrel forward in strange and experimental electronic directions, and if nothing else this release works well as an engaging marriage between video and audio; the presentation by DTS is outstanding.


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