Thursday, April 13, 2006

Music Backwards With Fun

Over the past couple of days, I've been exploring the weird, wonderful, and sometimes creepy world of listening to music backwards. It all started when I happened upon a page that has weird info about the music of Boards of Canada. A good portion of the info involved the fact that hidden things are revealed when you run some of their music backwards.

The best example comes from "A Is To B As B Is To C" from their album Geogaddi. What I thought was a fairly useless interlude contains a ton of random hidden stuff including a dog barking and a sample from the song "Teddy Bears Picnic." I almost thought it was a joke until I ripped it to an audio file on my computer than used Audacity to reverse it. It kind of made me wonder what other stuff sounded like backwards.

This wasn't the first time I have ever listened to stuff backwards and found interesting little things. I once listened to Missy Elliott's "Work It" backwards and found that the lyric "I put my thang down, flip it, and reverse it" is what is actually played backwards in the normal version of the song.

Sometimes, running a song backwards reveals exactly how it was created. Listen to the Radiohead song "Like Spinning Plates" backwards and you'll hear an interesting normal-sounding keyboard melody. Apparently, that melody run backwards is the basis of the normal version of the song. For other songs, running it backwards almost makes it brand new. "Star Guitar" is one of my favorite Chemical Brothers songs and it's almost as good backwards as it is forwards.

Listening to something that's classical in sound (or something that has little to no percussion) backwards yields an experience that's vaguely familiar but radically different. Without percussion, you don't hear that famous "beat" that all backwards songs have. This means that it's almost like listening to a remix or alternate version of a song.

The funniest (and creepiest) thing to do is to listen to something with vocals backwards. Most of the time, it ends up sounding like a foreign language. I'm reminded of the famous scene in the movie Top Secret! where they ran the film backwards so they could make the characters "speak" in German. This is especially the case when running hip-hop songs backwards. Because of how fast he raps, Twista actually sounds like he's rapping in Japanese when ran backwards for some reason. Backwards versions of songs where people sing have a weird, alien sound to them. The note changes are so unnatural that it really sounds strange.

I'm having fun playing my favorite songs backwards. I may have to put a backwards song or two on the next mix I make.

1 comment:

  1. When I was a kid, it was always rumored that you could reveal the Satanic messages the artists were trying to convey by listening to their music backwards. A highschool classmate once tried to convince me that if he played a Black Sabbath song backwards he could see demons dancing in his room. Frankly, I think Black Sabbath sounds just as bad in either direction.