Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails’ creative architect Trent Reznor consistently works to shake the norms of the music industry, whether it be through strategic resistance to the clutch of major record labels or an indirect jab at Fred Durst’s musical capability. Reznor has similarly worked to alter the direction of his own projects, and NIN’s seventh and latest release Ghosts I-IV, released Mar. 2, offers no evidence to the contrary.
Reznor’s style has developed ever since the angst-filled years of Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral, and Ghosts expresses a positive and mature shift to a new brand of experimental, minimal and predominately electronic industrial music. Ghosts is largely a conceptual album, consisting of 36 nameless instrumental tracks broken into four volumes and spanning a length of nearly two hours – a time that would surely bring miserable tears to a 21st century MTV loyalist.
Perhaps equally intriguing about this release is the somewhat revolutionary method in which it was released, similar to Radiohead’s pay-what-you-will digital release of In Rainbows last October. Sold as either a $5 digital download on the band’s website or through amazon.com’s MP3 download store, Ghosts is quite easily accessible and free of the usual record label complications.
Despite the sheer size of Ghosts, diversity is more than prevalent throughout the entire record, and each track varies from one to the next almost dramatically in terms of style, speed and even genre. Pulsing and syncopated industrial beats, as in 19 Ghosts III, contrast with the eerie major-minor shifts of 12 Ghosts II or the scratchy and hard-hitting 31 Ghosts IV. Simple and haunting piano melodies, reminiscent of Erik Satie or even Claude Debussy, are both stunning and thoughtfully brilliant additions to Reznor’s palette of styles and approaches.
One of the most impressive and notable features of the record, however, is the tendency of each track to meld together with the other tracks in a descriptive and poetic progression. Together, the tracks mimic a soundtrack or score to a thought or experience rather than an undemanding bundle of background music. As Reznor intended, every track successfully and powerfully conveys an image, and their sequential progression reflects a wide range of moods.
The visual imagery conveyed by this soundtrack style is no accident; Reznor has publicly stated his intent through a youtube.com video discussing the openness of interpretation of the album. Available with the download is a 40-page digital booklet adorned with images for each track, including scenes of wildlife and images of Reznor’s wire-threaded recording studio. Listeners are even invited to portray the tracks of Ghosts as they personally perceive them via an on-going YouTube video contest.
Enjoy Ghosts as a thoughtful journey and creative experience, and apply as much or as little thought to the tracks as necessary.
Give these tracks a listen:
14 Ghosts II
24 Ghosts III
For fans of: Trentemøller, Explosions in the Sky, Aphex Twin