BT – This Binary Universe

BT or Brian Transeau is my favourite electronic musician and his latest album this Binary Univese is simply a fantastic musical creation. When I first heard his IMA album, which my friend Andy bought me one Christmas, I just couldn’t put it down and wanted more and more. From there on he has delivered, ECSM (Electric Church Sky Music) being an album I have probably listened to more than any other.

His latest studio album (albeit released in 2006) is This Binary Universe, and is something a little different than anything he has done before. This album is one of the most abstract pieces of music I have listened to and yet it has a really elegance to it which is difficult to explain. The tracks have no vocal collaborations like in previous albums (Emotional Technology), and the track “Everything That Makes Us Human” was written exclusively in an audio programming language called CSound. Here is some code snippets from that track:

kfadefilter line 1500, p3, 25000
kfadefilter2 line 100, p3, 8000
kverbpan3 lfo 20, p3*.02
ileveloscs = p4
a1 hsboscil kenv*.18, ktone, kbrite, cpspch(p5+2.0), 2, 3, 10, -1
a2 hsboscil kenv2*.18, ktone, kbrite2, cpspch(p5+3.0), 2, 3, 10, -1
a3 oscil kenv3, cpspch(p5+3), 4
a4 oscil kenv3*0.01, cpspch(p5+1.6), 4
a5 oscil kenv3, cpspch(p5-2.4), 4
a6 oscil kenv3*.2, cpspch(p5-2.0), 4
a7 oscil kenv3*.2, cpspch(p5-1.4), 4
a5hp butterhp a5, kfadefilter2
amixhp1 butterhp a1+(a2*.1), kfadefilter+1000
amix = amixhp1*.1+a3+a5hp+a4+a6+a7
acomb comb amix, .007, .01, 4.0
al, ar babo acomb, kverbpan3, 0, 0, 8.39, 7.86, 40,
ahilinput = (amix+a3+a5hp+a4+a7) + (al*.3)
kfreq linseg cpspch(p6), p3, cpspch(p6)+.001
ahilL, ahilR hilbert ahilinput

BT’s fascination with mathematics, thinking outside of the box, creating tracks purely in code without the aid of sequencers or instruments, and even developing his own software (BreakTweaker) whilst producing this album has made it something purely unique and the album he is most proud of.

There are fewer tracks here than on any previous album, and they are all long, unresponsive, unwieldy, and very much have an innocent, childlike “hey, remember Aphex Twin” quality to them. They alternate between extremely quiet moments where nothing happens and loud, bombastic moments with full orchestras. He is no longer adhering to the 4/4 dance groove and pop sensibilities preferred by his fan-base, choosing odd keys and uneven time signatures that change pace and direction, naming tracks after mathematical concepts like the Golden Ratio (1.618), time correcting minute slivers of samples that no one will notice, slicing down 2,048th notes and micro-edits, and inserting hidden Easter eggs and advanced sonic tricks (particularly now that he has started working with 5.1 audio). None of these will be apparent to you, however, unless you look at the source code.

This Binary Universe is like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. It’s really isn’t something, I find, you can’t easily listen to as say background music, as it make you stand up to attention and try to understand all it’s beauty – this really is creative design, but don’t take my word for it check out one of my favourite tracks:

See You On The Other Side – This Binary Universe

This Binary Universe is available on CD with Bonus DVD with 5.1 DTS surround which sounds awesome on my new 5.1 kit, which I recently reviewed.

M-Audio interview BT about This Binary Universe

Recent quote from BT

The second interest of mine is in mathematics and computer software. I started a software company two years ago called Sonic Architect, and we spent two years building a drum machine called BreakTweaker; every beat on the record is done in BreakTweaker. It’s the first ever surround sound drum machine, and it’s going to come out next year. But we built it so I could do the beats that I wanted to do on this album: note figures of 2,048th and 1,024th notes that spline down into 8th note triplets exponentially over a dotted quarter note. And all of this granulation takes place in surround sound. Nothing that’s commercially available can do this yet.

Resources and links

One thought on “BT – This Binary Universe

  1. RupertG

    Thanks so much for this. Just discovered your blog and your work (via Wired’s coverage of your astronomical posters), and it’s reminding me of why I love the Web so much. A big slab of glorious visual work, and this embedded in the middle of it all like the best Easter egg ever!

    I particularly like – having had all of an hour’s experience of your creations and half an hour of BT’s – the way they express the same very human spirit of creativity and love of pattern and change, through mathematics used as an almost tangible artistic medium.

    Looking forwards to more.



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