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In 7.59 Billion Years We're All Gonna Die (Phil Torres/Baobab)

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Published on Sep 7, 2013

Songs and information about this album are below:

1. Tea and Coffee in a Parisian Courtyard (0:00)
2. What Doesn't Make Me Stronger Only Kills Me (3:57)
3. To be, or Not to be: That is a Tautology (7:00)
4. Humans Tend to Occupy the Lower Half of Rooms (9:02)
5. I Want My Gravestone to Read "That Individual" (11:28)
6. Everybody is a Nobody to Most People (13:31)
7. I'm So a Loner (16:34)
8. Nothing Moves Me Like Being Pushed (20:00)
9. Always Create Drunk and Evaluate Sober, or Vice Versa (21:51)
10. Nice, Down South (24:53)
11. Of All the Things I've Lost, It's My Mind I Miss the Most (29:00)
12. The Milky Way Galaxy is on a Collision Course with the Andromeda Nebula (32:48)
13. Trapped between the Earth and the Stars (36:31)
14. Out of the Strenuous Briefness (38:54)

About the album:

In 7.59 Billion Years We're All Gonna Die was recorded (mostly) in a little London dorm over a period of three weeks during the dark and chilly winter of 2013. A week into the trip, after recording the vocal parts for a couple of the songs, I caught pneumonia and spent the rest of the month-long trip lying in bed with my computer. (Some nights, so that my partner could get some sleep -- she was busy doing dissertation research at the British Library -- I'd load-up on cough medicine and Ambien and fall asleep on a raggedy chair in a huge conference room downstairs.)

Most of the songs were made by cutting and (re)arranging little bits and pieces of music that I'd begun to record. I brought my nylon string guitar with me and there was an old, poorly-tuned piano in a drafty chapel inside Goodenough College (the institution's actual name!). I'll never forget walking around those hallways, florescent lights buzzing above, the sun already having set at 4pm, and across the courtyard where the frozen sky sometimes revealed the faint mist of the Milky Way galaxy. The city was so frigid, lonely, dark, welcoming, and beautiful. I had many strange dreams at night, and during the day spent a lot of time daydreaming about warmer, sunnier places (hence the summery sounds interspersed throughout the album).

The first word on the LP is "Ashes," and the last is "nothingness." The album opens with a very distinct and peculiar sound (a single guitar pluck time-shifted by -400% or so); Side One also ends with this very same sound sample (just before song 7 starts). Similarly, Side Two begins and ends with a orchestra bass drum crescendo. Both halves are exactly 20 minutes, and each is continuous all the way through. Together, they are meant to tell the story of my sojourn in London -- and later, in Paris, where I added much of the electric guitar that appears on the album. (The guitar was my friend's; my partner and I stayed in his little Parisian apartment, next to a beautiful Parisian courtyard.)

Once I got home, I added a final song or two, some backing vocals (after my voice finally returned, having been silent for three weeks or so), and some additional atmospheric textures that situate the songs within a larger, enveloping sonic environment. Some of these sounds are 3-dimensional "binaural" recordings (e.g., a subway in song 1; the buzzing insect in 2 and 12; the splashing water at the end of 3; and so on). As a result, the album is much more immersive if listened to with headphones, so that each channel of the stereo output goes to one and only one ear.

Other sounds were sampled from the Macaulay Library at Cornell University. Song 9 is probably the most interesting example of this: samples of crickets, frogs and lions make up the track's rhythmic / percussive backbone. (I actually entered a version of this track into an NPR Studio 360 competition and tied for second place.) I also used a lot of unusual sound and instrumental samples downloaded from random websites on the internet; I then manipulated these samples and worked them into the songs. For example, the chime-y sounds at the beginning of the first song (and which also appear at the end of song 6 to create, once again, a kind of sonic bookending to the two halves of the LP) was recorded -- open-air, from a crappy computer speaker to my microphone -- using the website: tonematrix.audiotool.com. I pitch- and time-shifted the various tonal patterns I created to match the reversed vocals that were looped from a completely different, African-y song recorded weeks earlier.

Finally, I came up with a bunch of idiosyncratic titles. Many of these titles are allusions to witticisms, sayings or works of art. For example, song 5 is a reference to the existentialist philosopher Kierkegaard; 6 is an expanded paraphrase of something Louis C.K. says in an episode of Louie; 9 is -- I was told -- a saying from the Ancient Greeks; 10 is pronounced "nees," as in the southern French town from which my family originates (I liked the idea of every competent English speaker calling it "nahys" instead of "nees"); 11 is adapted from Mark Twain; and 14 refers to a poem by E.E. Cummings.

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