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Thread: The Background World

  1. #61
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    I love this song! I have to say though it was a strange one to have stuck in my head for a 4 hour long, hot bike ride. The last hour of the ride was the end of the song over and over and I couldn't get my brain to go back to the beginning.

  2. #62
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    Read a comment about The Great Destroyer and that reminded me of this video I took in 2014 with really bad audio.

  3. #63
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    cool song, but: "
    I'm going to keep myself awake I know what's coming"
    what's coming, mr. reznor?

  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by |mando| View Post
    In the space just before the "loopening", there's a sound, almost like a distorted fly sample. What's odd about it is that of the sample, it plays the second half first (the loud part) and then it plays the soft build up. I've glued both halves together and listened to it probably too many times (as well as reversed it, slowed it down, sped it up, played with its pitch, put it through spectro, etc) and it just keeps sounding like a fly buzzing. I just found it odd that it's two halves to the same sample.

    Anyway, maybe someone else has other ideas about this.

    https://clyp.it/b35cvnsd - glued version played forward twice, backward twice, pitched up twice, pitched up backward twice.


    EDIT: Also the gap after the first loop is pretty, pretty close to 0.1s in length exactly (when I first separated it, I got 0.099s). And the BPM is around 83.075 or so, as close as I could manually measure. I tried to see if it was close to (DEVIATION) 85.122 by some weird chance ... it wasn't unfortunately.
    I've listened to this section a few times specifically to hear this and have determined that buzz sound is a loop that starts at least a few bars before the gap. It's probably just some synth sound Atticus made.
    Last edited by Mike; 07-23-2017 at 07:58 AM. Reason: typo

  5. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by notsoprettynow View Post
    cool song, but: "
    I'm going to keep myself awake I know what's coming"
    what's coming, mr. reznor?
    I wonder. The Background World seems like a good way to end the second act of this story - I think the idea of it being a simulation is kind of a metaphor and isn't to be taken literally though. From how I interpret it the protagonist from NTAE is down on their luck, all their hopes and dreams appear to be falling apart and is slowly being influenced by what they are seeing as a different truth that's more attractive than their real lives. At the end this protagonist feels vindicated and ready to take this new reality to the next level essentially discarding the current version of themselves to embrace a more primal past version of themselves thus creating an angrier, destructive future version.
    Fast forward to ADD VIOLENCE and it appears that the actions of our protagonist have had consequences and they are sobering. They've helped cause much destruction but it hasn't helped them feel any better about themselves or their personal situation. They are losing a grip on reality and everything they were fighting for or believed in has gone away and left them. They desperately want to rekindle old relationships they had ignored and fix things. ADD VIOLENCE feels like it is full of regret and again the protagonist wants to return to a different past, possibly the version they discarded in NTAE or slightly before those events. The voice is asking "are you sure you want this?" reminding them that if they go back the pattern is probably going to repeat and problems could get worse - I think the end loops of The Background World illustrate this looping degradation very nicely. The idea is that we shouldn't regress by looking at a warped version of the past and instead should evolve.

    My ideas will probably change on this several times over as well, especially when a third EP and perhaps full on album appears but I'm going with this for now.

  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by pushingreality View Post
    I've been listening to this song a lot because it's super awesome, but I'm also trying to figure out what is happening right around 3:39.

    I tried to clean it up...it sounds like two people talking, quickly followed by something being whispered.

    https://clyp.it/aejq2egr

    I checked to see if anyone mentioned it in that crazy "Add Violence" thread but didn't see anything about it.

    I also hear voices in this song! Specifically, these points : 3:14, 3:40-3:43ish, 3:47-3:52ish. The last one almost sounds like the robotic, "yes, everyone seems to be asleep" voice briefly included.
    Last edited by whimsicality; 07-23-2017 at 12:55 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by whimsicality View Post

    I also hear voices in this song! Specifically, these points : 3:14, 3:40-3:43ish, 3:47-3:52ish. The last one almost sounds like the robotic, "yes, everyone seems to be asleep" voice briefly included.
    I thought i heard more voices starting around 9:00 when i removed some of the noise but I'm not very good at that sort of stuff

  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skullton View Post
    I thought i heard more voices starting around 9:00 when i removed some of the noise but I'm not very good at that sort of stuff
    Yes! With careful listening and good headphones, I can hear this as well. I think it's throughout all the loops...something is said during the beginning of those 9 seconds.

  9. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by whimsicality View Post
    something is said during the beginning of those 9 seconds.
    "The best thing about life, is knowing you put it together.."

  10. #70
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    It reminds me of The Disintegration Loops:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjnAE5go9dI

  11. #71
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    I took out the pauses between the loops and it plays much better for me.

  12. #72
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    Thinking about this more wondering if they ran the 52 loop clean in a single take then made a bunch of copies at each incremented iterations. The abrupt cut would make it pretty easy to line up or since it's just copying from the final prouct it wouldn't really matter where they started each copy.

    -----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_ (1st Copy)
    _____-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_ -----_-----_-----_ (Create a XXX copies starting at the 2nd iteration)
    __________-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_ (Create a XXX copies starting at the 3rd iteration)
    _______________-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_ (etc)
    ____________________-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_-----_ (etc)


    I don't understand the 52 day idea. Is it that the machine referenced from PD needed to run for a day or so to have any impact on the sound? I'm guessing T-Rez et al have all sorts of ways to deteriorate a tape. Perhaps adding a light sporadic magnetic field to the process.

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    Bought this track. Sped it up by time squeezing 85%. Chopped end section off leaving total time to 4:26. Ahhhh, perfect.

  14. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by ekrekel View Post
    I don't understand the 52 day idea. Is it that the machine referenced from PD needed to run for a day or so to have any impact on the sound? I'm guessing T-Rez et al have all sorts of ways to deteriorate a tape. Perhaps adding a light sporadic magnetic field to the process.

    Like I've said in another reply, I am not completely stuck on the idea that it had to be done in 52 consecutive days or even 52 days total. I am totally open to the idea of loop playback being captured 52 times in however the amount of time it took to get to the noisy mess at the end. Could have been 52 different playbacks of the loop over a few days. Who knows.

    Now that I've listened to it more, it seems that on the first many cycles, or perhaps all of it, that the drums and the percussive arpeggio/melody are not being affected by the degradation. So maybe the manipulation into noise is only done on the piano/bassline and any instruments that accompany the piano chords. By 7 minutes, some manual manipulation is starting to happen, suggesting that this isn't all done by possible degradation from tape looping. I'm up for the idea of some of this being done with the tape looping and him and Atticus going over it and manually fucking around with filters and compression. I'm also open to it not being done by the tape loop process at all and wondering if what he did for Patriots Day inspired this slow deconstruction.

  15. #75
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    In my language, in "you left me here" you have to specify the gender, she or he. Who do you think it is here? I am leaning towards "he", like "other me", or maybe "God" or something, not "she" like a lovesong, right?

    2.
    When listening, do you know "this is the last loop"? I'm afraid I'll learn that. So far it ends "suddenly" for me, when I am enjoying it actually. :-)

    Sometimes I think nothing will be better than in the past, when we were younger and impressed more by everything, now I am older and nothing is that interesting... but, then THE BACKGROUND WORLD, and everything is magnificient again, for a while.
    Last edited by Substance242; 07-24-2017 at 02:37 AM.

  16. #76
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    A guy on reddit did a bit of a walkthrough on this track, mostly the technological aspects. I have no idea about any of this stuff, so I can't really vouch for the accuracy but it seems legit.


    Time to Dispel Some of the Theories About the Production of "The Background World" Once and For All [WARNING: LONG]

    The end section, specifically.

    Let me preface by saying that I don't know why the loop is the length that it is. I have no clue why the decision was made to make the loop imperfect. I don't know if there is any significance to the number of times the loop repeats.

    This is more of a look at some basic technical background on what is happening in this section of the song. I'll try to make this as basic as possible, and hopefully it will be easy to understand even if you don't quite get everything.

    Firstly, and most importantly, the break in the loop is not silence, and it is not plain white noise.

    The sound you're hearing is a simple byproduct of extreme saturation and compression on a noisy signal, and in fact, the entire progression of the second half of this song is driven by changes to the settings on a saturator, compressor, and one or two other simple audio processors.




    So about that noise.

    The very first time we hear the loop in the second section of the song, there is a new layer of noise underneath the music. I'm not positive of its origin, but it sounds an awful lot like tape hiss, and it's constant; that is, it doesn't disappear while the musical part of the loop is playing, but it's less noticeable.

    As the compression on the song gets progressively more aggressive, a few things are happening. As the music is playing, the level of that hiss/noise is pushed down beneath the electronics and the guitar. Then, each time the loop suddenly stops, the compressor is only acting on the background hiss that is still present, eventually amplifying it to the same level as the musical loop that it's "replacing."

    There are a couple of other things going on here that are less immediately apparent, but just as important to what eventually happens to the sound of the loop.




    Take a look at this spectrogram.

    It should be fairly obvious where the looping section begins, so take a look around the 23.5kHz–24kHz area (at the top in this image). Do you notice a difference between the end of the first section and the beginning of the second section of the song?

    You should see a noticeable bump in the amount of audio information in that part of the spectrum. Now, of course, we humans cannot hear this (fight me; I dare you), but it is indicative of that tape hiss that I mentioned, which actually occupies a much larger portion of the frequency spectrum than what we can see in this zoomed out view, but is most visible at the top of the spectrum where there is less music happening.

    Look lower on the spectrum, now; between 7 kHz and 17 kHz. You'll notice that from 04:40~07:00, you can pretty easily guess where each break in the loop is, right? But notice that it's not a complete break? It's not totally blank space there? That's our tape hiss continuing to play in the background.




    Now look down at the very bottom of the frequency spectrum where the looping section first starts. See that bit of bright red at the beginning there? That's the bass and sub-bass, but notice how it quickly fades away over the first four or five loops. That effect is caused by one of a few things: a high-pass filter, an EQ shelf, or a gain/volume change on the bass tracks; to my eyes, it looks most like the effect of a high-pass filter. But why is that important?

    The human ear doesn't perceive sound levels evenly throughout the audible spectrum, and that is very important when deciding how loud each part of your song should be in relation to the others. But more importantly, the presence of that bass and sub-bass changes the way the saturator and compressor further down the signal chain will react to and process the incoming audio. I mainly want to focus on what the compressor is doing, though.




    Here's how a compressor works.

    Any audio above a specific level (the threshold) is lowered in volume by a calculated amount (the ratio), and makeup gain is applied to bring the level of the final signal back up to compensate for the overall lower volume.

    Yes. That's right. Despite what you've probably been taught all your life, dynamic range compressors actually make audio quieter, not louder. More on that later.

    The exact behavior of the compressor depends a lot on the design of the circuitry, and more settings like the attack and release times, but those are beyond what is important to understand what is happening in "The Background World."

    A simple, single-band compressor processes all of the audio it is fed with the same settings, not respective of the frequencies being passed through it. If the compressor decides that it should apply -10 dB of gain reduction, it happens across the entire spectrum. Now typically, bass and sub-bass frequencies are mixed quite "loud" from a technical perspective in relation to the rest of the spectrum in a song because bass frequencies require a lot of energy to reproduce on a sound system (compared to other higher-frequency sounds). However, if you feed too much bass into a single-band compressor, you'll get that stereotypical "pumping" effect that people often associate with dance music or casualties of the Loudness War.

    By applying a high-pass filter — or otherwise removing some low-frequency information from the audio going into the compressor — that pumping effect is reduced. You can still hear it to some extent, though in a different part of the spectrum.

    As you're listening, pay attention to how the snare and hi-hats seem to disappear each time the guitar is strummed. This doesn't sound major at first, but totally changes the sound toward the end of the track. If that kick were at the same volume as it is at the beginning, you'd hear a distinct "pumping" sound as the rest of the music gets ducked behind the kick each time it triggers the compressor.

    With the kick drum being less prominent, we instead end up with a messy, distorted wash of noise as the guitar slams into the compressor, pushes everything else down, then slowly decays and allows the other sounds to resurface.

    That "pumping" effect is also what causes the tape hiss to disappear behind the music, then momentarily reappear when the music stops. As the threshold of the compressor — the level where gain reduction is applied — gets lower throughout the track, the difference in volume between the loudest and softest parts of the song are reduced until finally everything is constantly playing at the same level.




    Now, take a look at the waveform. This view is zoomed out so that we can see the overall level of the entire song. The momentary loudness isn't important here because it's already very easy to see what is happening in the end section.

    Notice how the overall volume of the song actually appears to get lower with each loop at the beginning of the second section? even though it actually sounds as if it's getting a bit louder?

    Remember how I said we humans don't perceive the volume of sound evenly throughout the frequency spectrum? As the bass and sub-bass are filtered out, as the compression gets more aggressive, as the saturator distorts and smears the audio, the level of the track actually gets lower, but the sound that remains is perceived to be just as loud because of the frequencies present and the extreme loss of dynamic range.

    Again, dynamic range compressors are used to make loud audio quieter. They quite literally compress (or reduce) the dynamic range (the range of difference between the loudest and quietest parts) of a song.




    At this point, I've kinda lost the plot and don't remember exactly where I was going with this, but hopefully you'll find it informative. If I remember what I was going for here, I'll update this post.
    If you've got any questions or feel that I need to explain something more clearly — which I probably do — I'll try to reply in the comments.

  17. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by Substance242 View Post
    1.
    In my language, in "you left me here" you have to specify the gender, she or he. Who do you think it is here? I am leaning towards "he", like "other me", or maybe "God" or something, not "she" like a lovesong, right?

    2.
    When listening, do you know "this is the last loop"? I'm afraid I'll learn that. So far it ends "suddenly" for me, when I am enjoying it actually. :-)

    Sometimes I think nothing will be better than in the past, when we were younger and impressed more by everything, now I am older and nothing is that interesting... but, then THE BACKGROUND WORLD, and everything is magnificient again, for a while.
    The way I read it it's "She" most of the time and "She" could mean God, or more appropriately a part of one's psyche. I don't think NIN uses "She" in a literal sense very often so it would refer to the part of oneself that is rational, kind, optimistic and caring. Psyche was also a woman in Greek myth.
    Last edited by acidpits; 07-24-2017 at 03:22 AM.

  18. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guy on reddit
    I don't know if there is any significance to the number of times the loop repeats.
    But we do. It's so obvious. In the DC Universe there are 52 established alternate versions of reality. These are all simulations created by Dr Manhattan in his struggle to create the perfect universe (yes, this is actually canon). This world in NINtown has already been shown to be a simulation. Makes sense to me.

    All joking aside, 52 is Tront's age and it's possibly some commentary on the degradation of memory. Come to think of it, is this only the second time TR has acknowledged his age in a NIN song? The last time was in Wish, exactly half his lifetime ago: "26 years on my way to hell". 26x2=52. Coincidence? Probably. But it's interesting nonetheless.

  19. #79
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    Tront

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    Maybe not precise age, but generally growing older has started to be quite a regular lyrical theme. While I'm Still Here and Branches/Bones spring to mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vertigo View Post
    Maybe not precise age, but generally growing older has started to be quite a regular lyrical theme. While I'm Still Here and Branches/Bones spring to mind.
    I'm talking about him actually directly referring to the number of years he's been alive. Age has been a recurring motif in NIN for several albums now.


    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Seaward View Post
    Tront

    The Meathead Perspective was a thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vertigo View Post
    Maybe not precise age, but generally growing older has started to be quite a regular lyrical theme. While I'm Still Here and Branches/Bones spring to mind.
    Quote Originally Posted by katara View Post
    I'm talking about him actually directly referring to the number of years he's been alive. Age has been a recurring motif in NIN for several albums now.
    The man probably grew older than he ever would have thought to become. He probably knows time changed him which is only natural and healthy, while some people (fans) sometimes want him to be an angry and depressed luncatic. The older you get, the more you see the world change around you. If you do not change with the world, then you become an isolated marginal old man yelling at the kids for living in the correct timeframe and culture. Keep living in the past and it becomes a self degrading loop untill you do not matter anymore.

    At least that is part of the struggle which i hear in the non-cryptic lyrics from the last two albums, and the first thing that came to mind when i first heard "Not The Actual Events".
    Last edited by Detunez; 07-24-2017 at 05:16 AM.

  23. #83
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    If they really did use a physical tape machine for this they could have run the tapes at faster than realtime to speed up the process, although that would have potentially changed the effect too.

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    Somebody posted a scene from the first Fargo season, because of the shared "Are you sure this is what you want?" line. I did think of that eventually, but where my mind first went and keeps returning to is the final scene from Bioshock Infinite. Elizabeth stops Booker from opening a door to a reality in which he can stop the main villain (a cult-ish religious fanatic) from ever being born, to ask him, with the most ominous line reading, "Booker, are you sure this is what you want?". Naturally, he says yes, enters the door, and a crushing revelation from which there's no coming back awaits him. I've always found it to be a haunting ending, Elizabeth's line in particular, and this song shares a very similarly foreboding feeling. The fact that "Are you sure this is what you want?" was already immortalized in my mind as such a powerful line only added to that.
    Last edited by loopcloses; 07-24-2017 at 06:54 PM.

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    This played on BBC 6 music today (end cut)

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    I don't know if anybody else realized, but 52 could also refer to the media sent back by SBI, #1 being "1984" and #52 being "Wild Thorns".

    This makes me feel as if the ending of TBW actually is about when everything was sent back to 2007, which is why everything gets so distorted, as did the websites.

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    Well, this was inevitable:


    Thoughts?
    Last edited by joplinpicasso; 07-26-2017 at 09:25 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joplinpicasso View Post
    Well, this was inevitable:


    Thoughts?
    That's fucking badass.

    As much as I can appreciate the artistic choice for TR/AR to have the gaps in there, I can listen to this altered version over and over. It really shows the listener that the gaps really do have a harsh psychological effect. I still love that idea and I love the "fuck you" attitude behind doing it. But being able to listen to this endless groove just dissolve into static is also amazing and much easier to digest. It's also easier to pay attention and follow the path of disintegration with more focus.

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    After many listens of the EP, I've decided this is my favorite song. Everyone here has listened to it, so there's no sense in describing how it makes me feel. But ultimately, it's one of my top 10 NIN songs. The loop is cool for about 2 minutes, but then I just turn it off - I've listened to it about 4 or 5 times all the way, I appreciate what he did, but at the end of the day, it just turns into noise, which is cool and all.

    Thanks Trent, I love you, your music and how you speak your mind to the press.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joplinpicasso View Post
    Well, this was inevitable:


    Thoughts?
    a superfluous, almost atrocious effort.

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