Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Circuit Music Journal 3 (1999)
Studio Line: Warner Bros.

Circuit is interactive entertainment, where you choose what to see and hear at any time with alternative audio and video tracks, and 2.0 and 5.1 channel AC-3 Surround Sound.

Visit the studio while 311 records their new album.

Have a cup of tea with CIBO MATTO and view their live performance from Austin, TX.

Moby takes a sightseeing tour of Hollywood - includes the video for "Run On"

An exclusive multi-track performance from The Flaming lips, plus a bonus song from their 4-CD opus Zaireeka.

An excerpt from Meeting People is Easy, a documentary about Radiohead - plus an interview with director Grant Gee.

Go shopping on Melrose with Kool Keith

Music Videos from Underworld and Styles of Beyond

Also: An excerpt from a new documentary about Paul Westerberg, a live performance by Mercury Rev, virtual aquatic pets and more.

Director: Various
Cast: Various
DVD: Standard 1.33:1; audio English DD 5.1 & Dolby Stereo; subtitles English; single sided - dual layered; no chapters; rated NR; 135 min.; $14.98; street date 10/12/99.
Supplements: NA
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B/C+/NA

Usually writing DVD reviews is pretty easy. I mean, I watch a movie, develop opinions of the film itself and the DVD's image, sound and supplements quality, and there it is! Sure, I can sometimes have a hard time solidifying my thoughts due to variances in the quality, but it's generally a pretty simple formula.

Sometimes it ain't that easy, unfortunately. That's where Circuit comes into the equation. Circuit is a quarterly DVD music magazine that features songs from and interviews with a variety of current acts. The issue I received was number three, and it offered various clips of Moby, Paul Westerberg, 311, Cibo Matto, the Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Kool Keith, Underworld, Styles of Beyond, and Mercury Rev.

Most of these segments include some form of interview. In the cases of Moby, Cibo Matto, 311, Kool Keith and Westerberg, we hear from the artists themselves; we also see Mercury Rev go shopping in Texas. The Radiohead piece actually is a segment of the tour film "Meeting People Is Easy" and the interview is with the movie's director, Grant Gee.

Some of the segments also feature a separate music clip. Mercury Rev and Cibo Matto are shown performing in Austin, Texas, while we see music videos from the Flaming Lips, Moby, Underworld, and Styles of Beyond. Also, a portion of Radiohead's "Meeting People Is Easy" appears. For the other acts, music features in the clips, but it's generally either in the background or shown in rehearsal. For each act on the DVD, a pretty good artist profile is presented as well.

In addition to these pieces, a number of advertisements appear. There's an ongoing string of Timex ads that are supposed to be from the Fifties (they're not), plus some commercials for Warner Bros. movies (The Matrix and Goodbye Lover) and one for Guess Jeans. The latter isn't too bad, since at least it allows us to see supermodel Laetitia Casta in various states of undress.

Based on that summary, you may wonder why I'm whining about how hard it is to review Circuit. It's because of the wildly varying levels of quality found on this DVD. When I watch a movie, I know what I thought about the movie as a whole when it's done. Even when I watch a compilation of music video clips from the same artist, while I may like some tracks more than others, I can draw a general opinion of the whole package.

Rating an anthology like this is much more difficult. Overall I have to say that the material included didn't do much for me, but I like the idea. A DVD such as this is a pretty cool way to introduce one to different artists and types of music. Although I'd heard of most of the acts on this disc, I hadn't actually heard all of them, so I liked being able to experience new music.

Unfortunately I didn't find any of it to be terribly stimulating. Best of the bunch are the music videos from Moby ("Run On") and Styles of Beyond ("Easy Back It Up"). Both songs were decent, and their videos were very clever and entertaining. The Flaming Lips piece randomly assembles audio tracks to create a unique experience every time; it's a cool idea, but the music and the clip did nothing for me. The final video on the DVD - Underworld's "Push Upstairs" - seemed dull, and the song was pretty lame as well.

Neither live performance worked for me. Both Mercury Rev ("Opus 40") and Cibo Matto ("Working for Vacation") seem to come from the school of the self-consciously quirky; they appear to try way too hard to be different, and I simply found both to be annoying.

Most of the interviews were also not terribly interesting to me, largely because I just am not interested in any of the acts. Moby's wasn't bad - it shows him talking to a Hollywood tour bus driver as they tool around town - and Westerberg seemed vaguely interesting, but the others just bored me. Worst was 311. They talked about their new album and - yuck! - their multiple tattoos. No offense to you tattoo-lovers out there; it's fine with me if you have them, but I can't say I'm interested to hear about them.

Ultimately Circuit offers a good idea and it's well-executed. It's fairly easy to navigate the DVD, and the different features for the different artists are clearly marked. I didn't care for most of the content, but future issues may be more interesting.

The DVD:

Now for the hardest part of this review: rating the quality of the DVD. The problem stems from the fact that so many different sources of material were used. This isn't one coherent movie; it's a bunch of clips from a bunch of different folks. How can I give the disc one rating to cover all of that?

I really can't, but I decided to try. Circuit comes with varying aspect ratios - though almost always fullscreen - on this single-sided, dual-layered disc. Because it's mainly fullscreen, the DVD has not been enhanced for 16X9 TVs.

Overall, the picture quality is really quite good. When it doesn't look so hot, that's usually intentional. For the most part, sharpness seems good, colors look accurate, and I saw no source problems. Jagged edges appeared more frequently than I'd like, but they weren't a terrible intrusion. Sorry for such a short description, but there's not a lot to hold onto here; the program offers such a mishmash of styles and formats that it's virtually impossible to pin it down.

The issue of sound quality is a little clearer, though not a lot. The program fluctuates between Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Pro Logic 2.0 soundtracks. The DVD's case makes it seem like you can switch between these tracks whenever you want, but that's not the case; each segment is either 5.1 or 2.0 and that's that - any attempts to change this will be rejected by your player. For the record, the performances or videos from Moby, Underworld, Styles of Beyond, Cibo Matto and Mercury Rev are 5.1; everything else on the DVD is 2.0.

It's that last tendency that's most problematic on this DVD. Much of the 5.1 sound is pretty good. The low end seems to be lacking, but audio separation is strong and the rear soundstage gets some decent usage. Those songs all seem clear and crisp and work very well.

The 2.0 segments don't sound nearly as good. They generally come across as glorified mono, really; we occasionally hear some stereo sound, but most of it seems to come from the center, with some use of the mono rears as well. This generally isn't a huge problem - most of this footage is interviews - but the musical portions don't sound nearly as good as they should. The 2.0 parts seem much less clear and vibrant when compared to the 5.1 portions, which is disappointing. All in all, the sound quality of Circuit is decent but not great.

One area I did not attempt to review is that of supplements. This program was created expressly for this format, so there can't actually be any extras. As such, there's no rating for that category.

Circuit offers a nice array of musical talent all in one package. While I didn't much like the content of the third issue of Circuit, it's possible that other editions may be more appealing to me. As such, I can't offer much of a recommendation for it, but I won't steer you away from it, either. If you like some of these acts, or if you just want to broaden your musical horizons and don't mind taking some chances, Circuit may be something you'd like to pursue. It's a well produced compilation of music and something that potentially might be quite valuable.

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