When we fall asleep, where do we go?

October 14 2021, by Daniel Fearon. Additional contributions from Jemima Paganuzzi and Omar Termanini

The obvious and recognisable sound of this project is that which made Eilish a household name in the first place. The cold and chilling production by Finneas O’Connell, in combination with Eilish’s own soft and intimate vocals, gives it a unique atmosphere, different to any other avant-pop or horror-pop album I have heard.   

The barren production used on the project is very well balanced due to the interesting sound selection and creative effects, displayed well throughout “xanny”. Here, the duality of production and mixing techniques are used to portray her relationship with drugs. Before the refrain, panning on the main vocal can be heard from left to right, creating a distressing effect for the listener. The vocals themselves become stacked during the refrain, before the instrumental cuts out. These are more compressed than the single vocal line used throughout the rest of the song (higher ratio, lower threshold).

Eilish’s voice is modified throughout with a high pass filter, giving it a “hollow” feel. In addition to this, the use of the stereo field for the vocals during most of the album makes the voice seem very close and intimate. As a result, and because of the breathiness of the EQ, it is as though Eilish is whispering right in front of the listener.

The album overall has quite an ominous feel to it, perhaps due to the dark themes that she sings about (e.g. drug addition, suicide, heart break, mental health etc.). She also says that the lyrics are inspired by lucid dreaming and night terrors. The whole album was recorded in Eilish’s bedroom using Logic Pro X, a pair of Yamaha HS5 studio monitors, a H8S subwoofer and a Universal Audio Apollo 8 Interface. I found this very surprising because of how amazingly produced each song is – I thought they would have had to record it in a recording studio for the songs to be of such a high quality. They have also included lots of sound effects of everyday things: canned laughter and applause, an air stewardess announcement, the scraping of a knife, movie quotes, sirens, rain, thunder and laughing. I think this creative and makes the whole album extremely unique.

Jemima Paganuzzi

The Hip-hop influence throughout the album is shown through distorted 808 basslines and sequenced trap drum tracks, especially on “you should see me in a crown.” Throughout this track, the volume of the reverb track is automated so that during certain, more dramatic, sections, the track sounds far drier and sharper. On “my strange addiction” the reverb is used mostly on the vocal, but it is also used to create a washing effect when entering the chorus, with an airy sound passing over the top of the instrumental.

A few tracks, such as “i love you”, “8”, and “wish you were gay” use guitars and ukeleles, mixed surprisingly brightly in contrast to the usual muddy, growling synthesised melodies on most of the songs. This contrast is used to emphasise the message of each of these songs: admiring Eilish’s unrequited crush.

On “all the good girls go to hell” it is interesting to note that through the verses the stereo field usage on the vocals, there is a main vocal, panned centrally as usual, and 2 backing vocals on either side. During the second verse, Eilish’s main vocal is panned slightly to the left, with a reply from the repeated modulation sound effect from earlier in the project. In a song with a name including “hell” this could be metaphorical dialogue between the angel and devil on her shoulders, working as her moral compass. More evidence for this is on the outro to the song, where a clear separation between two different dialogue tracks are panned far to each side.

I love the style of this album: dark and melodic, with heavy electronic drums and synths in some tracks paired with other acoustic instruments, such as an acoustic guitar. Finneas O’Connell, who is also Eilish’s brother, combines the acoustic and electronic elements so well and it sounds amazing. The album is built around O’Connell’s production which frequently incorporates amplified bass, minimalist percussion, and additional foley and acoustic sounds. The music is largely very bass heavy, especially in songs such as “bad guy”, “bury a friend” and “you should see me in a crown”. A lot of distortion and compression is also used in these songs, alongside some vocal effects like reverb, panning, echo and delay.

Omar Termanini

Daniel Fearon, U6, Jemima Paganuzzi, L6 and Omar Termanini, L6

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