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Thread: The Background World

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    The Background World

    Regarding the last 7 minutes of The Background World:

    Trent discussed using a tape looping technique on the Patriot's Day soundtrack. I have a strong feeling this was how the ending loop of The Background World was created. It's possible they could have pasted together a loop taken from 52 different days or weeks to create the quicker progression of the insane deterioration.

    *edit*
    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. If it wasn't done this way, then I imagine this process could have been an inspiration for this section of the song.


    Quote Originally Posted by Trent Reznor, Billboard
    While bits of piano and strings are decipherable at times, for much of the score, the instruments were deliberately distorted through a device of their own creation. “We had a friend of ours build this machine that is two tape machines hooked to a computer, where it just endlessly locks something in and copies from one to the next, each one degenerating another time,” Reznor says. “The longer you let it sit, the worse it gets. You’d go to lunch and come back and it sounds 8-track/tape-ish. Leave it overnight and it’s unrecognizable, but it does it in a way that’s interesting, that’s warm and nostalgic.”
    Almost every bit of instrumentation, including live strings, went through that filter. “We pretty much used that through the whole score in different ways,” Reznor says. “Sometimes it sounded more aggressive and sounded more electronic, but [there were] real acoustic instruments played and then glued together by this process of taping it over and over again.”
    Quote Originally Posted by Trent Reznor, Deadline
    On this film, we started experimenting with tape loops. We created something that had two different cassette decks. It would record something back and forth, forever, until you stopped it. You’d play a piano motif that’s maybe eight bars long and just let it go, and it starts to feel like a Xerox copy, a little bit. If you left it all night and came back the next day, it sounds strangely familiar and warm, in a way that a computer couldn’t have done, or a plug in couldn’t have done. It started to invoke the sense of memory or place. It had a real kind of homey, organic human sound. We created probably 30 of those things and would let them go for various amount of time, depending on how well they deteriorated. That provided the foundation for all of the heartfelt motifs in the picture.
    It was a recording technique we discovered that we’d been thinking about, but we hadn’t really had a reason to deploy it. That become something that we then used for everything else in the whole score. We’re not imagining anyone would hear that and say, “I wonder if they used several tape decks talking to each other?” It provides a road map that, if we pay attention initially, we start to wait for those things to kind of reveal themselves. That gives us the kind of fenced-in world for that film.

    What does everyone think about this?
    Last edited by captainbeyond; 07-23-2017 at 09:29 PM.

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    Yeah, this interview immediately came to mind when I heard The Background World.

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    Not gonna rule it out, but the deterioration used for PD isn't distorted much. TBW is full-on noise by the end. They're kind of the opposite types of deterioration.

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    'It's possible they could have pasted together a loop taken from 52 different days or weeks to create the quicker progression of the insane deterioration."

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    Is it normal to find yourself laughing after first listen to this, like "wow". :-) Interesting technique mentioned above, listening reminded me my "sampling" with ZX Spectrum first, lo-fi (1 bit) and completely wrong loop timing, but it got more interesting later. Also, if we agree the song breaks at 4:04, timestamp of my FLACs is 4:04 a.m., coincidence?

    Also, can you imagine this being played in its entirety on radio? Or someone listening loud in a cabrio on stop lights, nodding in satisfaction? :-)

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    Copy of a copy of a....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Substance242 View Post
    Is it normal to find yourself laughing after first listen to this, like "wow". :-) Interesting technique mentioned above, listening reminded me my "sampling" with ZX Spectrum first, lo-fi (1 bit) and completely wrong loop timing, but it got more interesting later. Also, if we agree the song breaks at 4:04, timestamp of my FLACs is 4:04 a.m., coincidence?

    Also, can you imagine this being played in its entirety on radio? Or someone listening loud in a cabrio on stop lights, nodding in satisfaction? :-)
    Since the last 7 minutes hypnotize me for whatever reason, that's going to be me you see nodding away to noise.

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    Honestly just sounds like a simple effect envelope to me (something like this), continuously turning up the distortion meter using some kind of function.
    I don't think you can get that kind of distortion just from copying tapes over and over, but who knows anyway.

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    I am utterly in love with this entire thing. Trent's vocals, his delivery of that "We will not get away" verse, the strings -- god, those strings -- the echoes of Is Your Love Strong Enough? in Trent's voice, the way that "Are you sure this is what you want?" gets turned into two separate statements through the mixing, the thumping nature of it as if you're marching forward to the end of everything, until it turns out that you actually are and everything just ... disintegrates, just falls apart, just fails, just fucking rips itself to shreds. It's got the electronic slickness of Year Zero and the icy cool of the duo's scorework and the emotion and passion of A Minute to Breathe and the expansive sadness of The Fragile and the noise-eating monstrosity of TDS and this has to be a top 10 NIN song for me. It's like the culmination and destruction of all the band ever was (and all that could have been).

    Between this and Burning Bright, these EPs are fucking up my favorites list hard.

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    Anyone else think of this with the repeated "are you sure this is what you want?"

    Last edited by Toadflax; 07-20-2017 at 04:55 PM.

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    It plays 52-1/2 times I believe. Trent is a little over 52. Last time I can recall him mentioning his age was Broken 26 at time of production. Perhaps showing the slow decay of the real world over the course of his life. Maybe in 5 more cycles(YZ) it'd be it's full static.

    Also, I really dig this track.
    Last edited by ekrekel; 07-20-2017 at 05:58 PM.

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    Edit

    Shortened the outro, which should hopefully make the track easier to listen to. The other thread had a few people saying "yeah, I'm only going to be listening to this once" about Background World's outro, so thought it might be worth posting this here. Hopefully not violating any rules given that I guess it's technically a remix.

    Chopped the ending down to 4 sets of 4 loops (plus the final half-loop), so overall length is shortened from 11:44 to 6:28, of which 2:22 comprises the outro. It's still long, just not torturously so.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/anxw6ucdh7...d%29.flac?dl=0

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    For some reason this came to mind.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAxHlLK3Oyk (Alvin Lucier - I Am Sitting In A Room)

    This project/recording/art piece (whatever you want to call it), you keep playing the recording back and recording it again. After a while the voice is degraded and you're left with just the resonance of the room. I can't remember if it was my high school teacher or one of my college professors that had us listen to this. I just remember wanting to recreate it to see what kind of sound I could get. Never actually did it though.

    If you want an abbreviated version, listen to the first iteration, skip to 5 minutes in, then 10 minutes, then 20, 30, and go to the end.

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    As an aside, I'd been wondering about this for awhile and finally got around to querying my music library's database:

    The Background World is, by a pretty wide margin, the longest non-remix track on a NIN release, at 704 seconds. Even taking remixes into consideration, it's only beaten out by Olof Dreijer's well-thought-of "Me, I'm Not" mix from YZRMX'd (at 840 seconds).

    Here's the top contenders. Not many non-remixes in there, certainly! Nice to see Corona Radiata doing well enough, though.

    1. 840 sec - Me, I'm Not (Olof Dreijer), from Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D
    2. 704 sec - The Background World, from ADD VIOLENCE
    3. 592 sec - Self Destruction, Final, from Further Down The Spiral
    4. 574 sec - Vessel (mix 1, Bill Laswell), from Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D (vinyl extras)
    5. 550 sec - Wish (remix), from Fixed
    6. 543 sec - The Hand That Feeds (DFA Mix), from Every Day Is Exactly The Same / Only
    7. 519 sec - Reptilian, from March Of The Pigs
    8. 501 sec - Copy of A (Simian Mobile Disco Remix), from Seed Eight (Remix 2014 EP)
    9. 499 sec - The Perfect Drug (Nine Inch Nails), from "The Perfect Drug" Versions
    10. 496 sec - The Good Soldier (Sam Fog), from Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D (vinyl extras)
    11. 482 sec - Screaming Slave, from Fixed
    12. 472 sec - The Hand That Feeds (Dub Mix), from The Hand That Feeds
    13. 468 sec - Only (Richard X Dub), from Only (unknown EP version)
    14. 467 sec - The Hand That Feeds (Photek Straight Mix), from Every Day Is Exactly The Same
    15. 455 sec - Ripe With Decay (Instrumental), from The Fragile: Deviations 1
    16. 453 sec - Corona Radiata, from The Slip
    17. 450 sec - the downward spiral (the bottom), from Further Down The Spiral/TDS DE (+/- 2sec depending on which release)
    18. 445 sec - All The Pigs, All Lined Up, from March Of The Pigs/TDS DE
    19. 445 sec - Capital G (Epworth Phones), from Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D
    20. 445 sec - Only (Richard X Mix), from Every Day Is Exactly The Same
    21. 444 sec - The Perfect Drug (Meat Beat Manifesto), from "The Perfect Drug" Versions
    22. 441 sec - Down In It (Singe), from Head Like A Hole
    23. 441 sec - Only (Richard X Remix), from Only (unknown EP version)
    24. 441 sec - Memorabilia, from Closer to God
    25. 440 sec - Fist Fuck, from Fixed

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vertigo View Post
    Shortened the outro, which should hopefully make the track easier to listen to. The other thread had a few people saying "yeah, I'm only going to be listening to this once" about Background World's outro, so thought it might be worth posting this here. Hopefully not violating any rules given that I guess it's technically a remix.

    Chopped the ending down to 4 sets of 4 loops (plus the final half-loop), so overall length is shortened from 11:44 to 6:28, of which 2:22 comprises the outro. It's still long, just not torturously so.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/anxw6ucdh7...d%29.flac?dl=0
    I haven't checked it out yet, but thank you for doing this (and in FLAC, no less!). Might make it more fun in playlists.

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    It's a nine second loop, looped 52 times

    Trent = 52

    Nine = Nine Inch Nails

    Clearly, he's trolling us..

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prettybrokenspiral View Post
    It's a nine second loop, looped 52 times

    Trent = 52

    Nine = Nine Inch Nails

    Clearly, he's trolling us..
    Coincidentally 52 is the exact number of times you have to email sandbag to get your shit sorted out with them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kleiner352 View Post
    ...the way that "Are you sure this is what you want?" gets turned into two separate statements through the mixing, the thumping nature of it as if you're marching forward to the end of everything, until it turns out that you actually are and everything just ... disintegrates, just falls apart, just fails, just fucking rips itself to shreds.....
    I love the way you worded this, also:

    The Bootstrap Paradox is a theoretical paradox of time travel that occurs when an object or piece of information sent back in time becomes trapped within an infinite cause-effect loop in which the item no longer has a discernible point of origin, and is said to be “uncaused” or “self-created”.

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    So something that always made Year Zero resonate with me so deeply was its ultimate sense of disappointed heartbreak over the fate of humanity -- I've always come off as very cynical but I really have always believed people could be something wonderful and there was no excuse for our failings. To hear that vocalized so poignantly on something like Zero-Sum moved me greatly.

    This song nails it even harder.

    When he sings "I know you saw it, too; I will keep myself awake; I know what's coming. I feel it reaching through. There is no moving past -- there is better place. There is no future point in time -- we will not get away," it doesn't feel malicious. It doesn't feel angry. It feels unbelievably sad. It just sounds like someone holding their head in shame and sorrow at how we all turned out, because it didn't have to be this way, but it is, and it's a future we made for ourselves.

    The softer vocals he uses, the echo effect on "This is what you want" being the only real harshness present -- it says so much. It's beautiful and heart-wrenching and perfect. The way that "Are you sure?" is made into its own question is also an incredible way of furthering the concept of uncertainty in reality and existence -- it goes from direct to existential. Are you sure of yourself, of the world you're in, of who you are as a human being? It feels like the exact same existential questioning spirit that wrote Right Where It Belongs, but far simpler and more succinct and, if anything, better for it.

    This whole EP is so moving and Background World really helps make all of it what it is. It feels like some of Trent's most human and open lyrics ever. For something exploring such deep concepts and intricate feelings, it comes off as highly personal and intimate. It feels private, like one little dialogue between you and him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by theSplinter04 View Post
    Honestly just sounds like a simple effect envelope to me (something like this), continuously turning up the distortion meter using some kind of function.
    I don't think you can get that kind of distortion just from copying tapes over and over, but who knows anyway.
    I totally agree. That's why I wonder if it was tape loops that were actually captured once every day/week from playing nonstop, instead of just 52 loops played back to back. Obviously from what he said in the interview, that technique would not create that much deterioration in just 7 minutes. I am a musician and have a background in production/engineering and if I hadn't remembered about these interviews, I would assume the looping was done in the studio, on a computer, pasted together and manually adding more noise as we hear it escalate into static. Envelope filters, compression, distortion...all these could have been used and the recording process could have been much simpler than the technique that this interview mentions. I do know that from the way both these EPs have been mixed, the dude is obviously in love with analog/tape sound again. He probably mastered them both through a vintage tape compression. It sounds just like it.

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    ^^^

    Great post, @kleiner352 . I read it the same way. I don't know if I've been this affected by a NIN release, on such a number of emotional levels, ever? I feel like generally, with the exception of a few songs here and there (and perhaps, as a whole, much of Pretty Hate Machine), he is rarely openly vulnerable both musically and lyrically for long. Usually the music is quite aggressive, shrouding the vulnerability of the lyrics.

    As @Prettybrokenspiral and @ekrekel pointed out, due to the possible autobiographical reference in the number of loops, I wonder if it's a statement on his own life? Almost all of NIN's songs are constructed from loops, or at least use looped phrases as a foundation. It's such a beautiful statement – in a way, it is his (musical) life. Trent's had an exceptional run. Very few people get to, well, perform at that level for as long as he has. None of us are immune to mortality though.
    Last edited by Pbgut; 07-20-2017 at 10:22 PM.

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    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.
    Last edited by |mando|; 07-20-2017 at 11:41 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Substance242 View Post
    Is it normal to find yourself laughing after first listen to this, like "wow". :-) Interesting technique mentioned above, listening reminded me my "sampling" with ZX Spectrum first, lo-fi (1 bit) and completely wrong loop timing, but it got more interesting later. Also, if we agree the song breaks at 4:04, timestamp of my FLACs is 4:04 a.m., coincidence?

    Also, can you imagine this being played in its entirety on radio? Or someone listening loud in a cabrio on stop lights, nodding in satisfaction? :-)
    I drive for uber and am tempted to put this song on infinite repeat just for shits and giggles

    FYI one time while driving I was playing NtAE and some passenger recognized it as nin and it floored me. I don't know if she knew the song or just recognized the voice and style. I think it was she's gone away but this was before it was on twin peaks.

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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 found the same sample and did the reordering of the 2 parts. If you listen to it at 96Khz it's totally a fly flying by. That could be a reference to a song from NTAE (the flies coming out).
    https://clyp.it/t4qwgeye

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    Quote Originally Posted by seasonsinthesky View Post
    Not gonna rule it out, but the deterioration used for PD isn't distorted much. TBW is full-on noise by the end. They're kind of the opposite types of deterioration.

    You can get a tape to sound pretty fucked up. I once did a song where a friend and I dubbed the ending of it to an old MC tape, ran a demagnetizer across the cassette, pulled the tape itself a bit, and crossfaded the result with the rest of the song so it gradually deteriorated during the last minute. We got it to sound pretty messed-up. Not as ruined as TBW, but not too far off.

    https://frederikolsen.bandcamp.com/t...n-the-power-up, for anyone wondering.

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    so I guess you are not familiar with the https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_...egration_Loops

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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by captainbeyond View Post
    Regarding the last 7 minutes of The Background World:

    Trent discussed using a tape looping technique on the Patriot's Day soundtrack. I have a strong feeling this was how the ending loop of The Background World was created. It's possible they could have pasted together a loop taken from 52 different days or weeks to create the quicker progression of the insane deterioration.


    One hole in your theory: that would mean it took a full year to record the song. Do you think that's likely?

    I think he's been exploring this idea and the equipment he got assembled for Patriot's Day is awesome but my gut feeling is the looping on this is likely a more digital thing. It felt to me more like some kind of filter/feedback loop being applied over and over.

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    I'vebeen wondering about how that machine/device is built (the one used in the PD soundtrack). I get the double tape thing, but I can't figure out how it is made to loop and record over and over without having to stop and switch tapes after every single repetition.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    You know when i first saw this title on Nin.com page i already knew it would be awesome and strange. But i thought it would be like Burning Bright. Some heavy heavy shit.

    About degrading the sound on tape loop - there's a trick to do it faster: all you need is just an amplifier or compressor. I don't know if they did it this way, but i think it's kind of logical decision if you want to degrade some musical loop to harsh noise.

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