Review Summary: Simply stunning. A beautiful, engrossing album filled to the brim with style, elegance, and poise.
Until discovering This Binary Universe
, I had only enjoyed BT in passing--a frivolous enjoyment of his eccentric yet thoughtful rave infused melodies. I quickly passed off his most recent affair, These Hopeful Machines
as a novel, if not bloated album, chock full of sounds and music that frankly I didn’t quite fully understand (and still don‘t for that matter). But in giving BT another chance, I’ve stumbled upon a bold, yet quietly brilliant album; a record that defines Brian Transeau as an artist, rather than the disgustingly glamorous man behind the moniker.
And that’s ultimately what makes This Binary Universe
feel so compelling--it’s starkly personal. Enough so, that Transeau created an original computer program, just for this record. However, the main thing to take away from the album is how organic it really feels. Yes that sounds a little silly describing an electronica album--a genre seen as cold and artificial--but it’s most definitely fitting when you hear the pattering of rain against piano keys, or the dramatic swelling of strings and percussion. And while it’s true that anyone can throw a litany of elements into some genre bending and call it “revolutionary,” it take an actual musician to make it work, and sound so natural as well. However, BT does just that, as if the fantastically complex and emotionally arresting album that This Binary Universe
is, simply leapt from his mind and onto some score sheets.
This Binary Universe
, while clearly a minimalist outing, is fascinatingly thematic. It’s the more classical side of BT, full of beauty and bombast, played to those who want to quietly savor an album while it simmers and stews in their mind. Like Kashiwa Daisuke’s 2007 Program Music I
, the album is built on very lengthy compositions (although not nearly of the same length as said record), with emphasis on strings and piano, as well a glitchy aesthetics. It’s truly an electronica affair at heart, but there’s quite a bit more here than that, with the album literally oozing style at every turn. It’s obvious the ex-Berkley School of Music student knows his stuff, with This Binary Universe
featuring a multitude of instruments and sounds. From common strings to mis-wired children’s toys, the album is filled to the brim with styles both strange and conventional.
The album opens with “All That Makes Us Human Continues,” arguably the most beautiful of the record. It’s lush and serene, a track steeped in hopeful emotions and starry-eyed wonder. It feels so natural, and so wonderful, even though the ambient intro and subtle guitar driven mid-section is nothing spectacularly unique. Yet the way it is played out, the way it feels
is something that truly is marvelous. Engrossing moments like these aren’t in short supply, as they are literally sprinkled everywhere, enough so, that it’s nigh impossible to go into any sort of great detail. Whether it be the dramatic string lead middle of “The Internal Locus,” or the almost danceable “1.618,” there’s just an insurmountable amount of memorable moments. “The Anhtkythera Mechanism” stands out as the most shockingly boisterous piece. The ending borders on chaotic, with an orchestral section playing menacingly, right before an unpredictable glitch-filled breakdown. Although each tune has it‘s fair share of greatness, it‘s “Good Morning Kaia” that stands out among the rest. Written for his daughter, the song is the most light-hearted and hopefully jovial on the entire record. It swells and bursts like a post rock track, with a lush piano melody played throughout. It’s simply a phenomenal song, and one that closes out the album perfectly.
Perhaps this reviewer has given This Binary Universe
, and ultimately BT himself, too much credit. Maybe this isn’t as groundbreaking or revolutionary as has been told. After all, the electronic/neo-classical shtick has been done before, and with a far greater following than this. However, this isn’t a simple musician playing to his fans, nor is it a man trying so desperately to prove something, but rather, this is the sound of an artist playing for himself
. This is BT at his most profound, something not seen before, and something that may very well not be seen again. Perhaps it was a spark; a wildfire of inspiration that gave birth to This Binary Universe
. Regardless of what it was, it is an album that for those who embrace its dreamy, enveloping sounds cape, will have a difficult time ever forgetting it.