Posts Tagged ‘Nine Inch Nails’

It’s kinda hard to believe that I’m writing about a new Nine Inch Nails album less than six months after their last one was released. Ghosts I-IV was an experimental release, that was created with remixing and sampling in mind, sold online for a variable price. The Slip is almost the opposite: a lean, 10 track album that cuts to the chase and sweeps you up and doesn’t let go. This is Nine Inch Nails at their most dynamic; the sometimes ponderous industrial elements are scaled back in exchange for a faster, distorted sound. Guitars and bass fizz with menace and Josh Freece’s drumming is so good you’d swear a drum machine is doing most of it (the accompanying live DVD disproves that theory).

The opening two track let you know what you’re in for: the stampeding “Letting You” combines the distorted sounds with some pounding drums. “1,000,000” “Discipline” is an example of itself, a restrained, melancholy middle section stops the track from sounding too much like the previous two. “Echoplex” is the first drum machine track on the album and agian, it breaks the flow and prevents the song from sounding the same as the previous trio.

However, there’s a bit of a stumble towards the end. “Lights In The Sky” is a haunting piano track that’s almost an instrumental, due to the barely audible vocals. “Corona Radiata” is a purely instrumental track that flows on from “Lights In the Sky” and carries on it’s dreamy ambience to a static charged end. “The Four Of Use Are Dying” is a fairly limp ending, all surging electronics but no real bite until the last minute, but by then it’s not enough. “Demon Seed” is good but could have been placed in the middle for a better effect. It seems almost churlish to complain about the last few tracks considering the first five songs are some of the best that Nine Inch Nails have come up with in the last ten years. The Slip is a better than average album, but one that maybe benefits from downloading certain tracks from i-tunes, rathat than as a whole.

Nine Inch Nails – Letting You (live rehearsal):

Actually quite a lot. With a glut of 2CD reissues and bonus CDs making up my collection, I thought it’d be a good idea to draw attention to some great songs that have fallen through the cracks. Consider this a guide to making up a mix CD of rare tracks:

1. DJ Shadow – Six Days (Soulwax Remix): this is a right cracker. The vocals are sped up and there’s a quality sample from the B52’s “52 Girls” to propel the whole thing along. Well worth seeking out although why this was only on the Japanese rarities album I don’t know. (Available on the Private Repress Japanese Import by DJ Shadow)

2. Jeff Buckley – Forget Her: apparently this was left off Jeff’s classic debut Grace, at the last minute. There are rumours that Jeff didn’t want he song to be heard, but it was re-instated on the 2CD Deluxe reissue edition of the album a few years ago. It’s something that’s equally as good as anything on Grace and a beautiful song. (Available on Grace: deluxe edition by Jeff Buckley)

3. Nine Inch Nails – Dead Souls: this cover of the Joy Division track probably slipped under the radar of a few people since it appeared on the soundtrack to the Crow. It was added onto the 2CD edition of The Downward Spiral when it was reissued. (Available on The Downward Spiral deluxe edition by Nine Inch Nails)

4. Superstar – Every Second Hurts: b-sides don’t carry that much weight these days. Which is a shame as they’ve often been the source of little songs that make the grade. Superstar were once of Scotland’s most under-rated bands, thanks to Joe MacLinden’s delicate voice and quality song writing. This delicate ballad was on the b-side of one of the band’s best songs. (Available on the single “Everyday I Fall Apart” by Superstar)

5. The Stooges – I Wanna Be Your Dog: the Stooges always sounded filthy, but this alternate take from their debut album, polishes things up a little making John Cale’s production just that bit sharper. (Available on The Stooges 2CD reissue by The Stooges)

6. Smashing Pumpkins – Real Love: a review I read of the Pumpkins “Greatest Hits” album said that the CD was proof that Bully Corgan wrote too many songs. Maybe, but this is one of their best: an unreleased track that sounds like nothing else they’ve done before. A swirling feedback anchored by Jimmy Chamberlin’s incredible drumming. It’s my favourite Smashing Pumpkins track by a mile. (Available on Rotten Apples – Greatest Hits of Smashing Pumpkins)

7. U.N.K.L.E. – Guns Blazing (instrumental version): I don’t think it’s any secret that I like the first U.N.K.L.E. album, but it’s not without it’s flaws. Some of the vocal performances aren’t especially strong, so it’s good to see the Japanese version of the album comes with some instrumental versions of two of the tracks. The best one is the album’s intro, “Guns Blazing”, a blistering drum assault that’s made more powerful without the lacklustre rapping that was on the original. (Available on Psyence Fiction Japanese Import by U.N.K.L.E.)

8. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – Bang: the hype about the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s really peaked when the released their first album, but it had been building since they released their first two singles, Bang and Machine. These two songs weren’t on the debut album Fever To Tell which was a shame, especially Bang with it’s gritty sound and biting lyrics (“as a fuck son/you suck”). The b-side  “Our Time” is pretty good too. (Available on the single Yeah Yeah Yeah’s)

9. Gorillaz – Hong Kong: the 2006 version of the seminal Help charity album never reached the heights of the 1996 version. There were too many cast off songs that felt like they were chucked in there because they would have gone to waste. The shining light here was Gorillaz mournful and atmospheric “Hong Kong”. Instead of the slick hip hop beats of the last album Demon Days, this track is a minimalist mood piece with sparse lyrics and a simple melody on a zither and piano. (Available on Help: A Day In The Life)

10. Roots Manuva – Movements: this live version is on the third disc of a great Ninja Cuts boxset called Xen Cuts. Disc three is all the rare stuff that’s been passed over and there’s some quality music on there (Cinematic Orchestra, Saul Williams, DJ Food). But this live take on “Movements” is great. It’s just Roots and a DJ, with a sample that reminds me of the John Barry sample that Sneaker Pimps used for Six Underground. Echoey and full of reverb it’s something that really stood out for me on this comp. (Available on Xen Cuts)

11. RJD2 – True Confessions: the Urban Renewal Project was a stellar compilation showcasing some great leftfield hip hop and beats from the Def Jux label. Prefuse 73, EL-P, Tortoise  and Mr. Lif were all on there. But it’s RJD2’s rocking “True Confessions” that’s the standout. Taking the same beat form Oasis’ “Fuckin’ In The Bushes” it builds a big dynamic sound with some heavy guitar sounds al throughout. (Available on Urban Renewal Project)

12.  Hope Of The States – Black Dollar Bills: I think I’ve professed my love for this song many times. But there is a catch here; I much prefer the original version that was released as a limited edition single in 2002. It was another two years before their debut album came out by which time they had re-recorded this song (as well as another early single “Enemies/Friends”). These new versions lacked the abrasiveness of the earlier releases that I loved. If you can find a copy of the original single (and it ain’t cheap I can tell you), then you’ll be rewarded with something that’s majestic and overpowering, but bleak and heartbreaking at the same time. (Available on Black Dollar Bills – Hope Of The States)

13. DJ Shadow – Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt (alternate take): ok, I couldn’t leave it with one DJ Shadow track, could I?  the 2CD deluxe edition of Entroducing has a great alternate version of one of my favourite Shadow tracks that strips it of nearly all the overdub, making the hypnotic piano loop ever more prominent. (Available on DJ Shadow – Endtroducing deluxe version)

14. Ok, I’m not going to pick a specific Radiohead song, because there’s too many to choose, so here they all are. These are culled from b-sides, import albums and other releases:

  1. Fog (Again) – Come Lag: 2+2=5 (Japanese Import)
  2. Palo Alto – Airbag (mini album)
  3. How I Made My Millions – No Surprises (b-side)
  4. Cuttooth – Knives Out (b-side)
  5. True Love Waits – I Might Be Wrong (live album)

Jeff Buckley – Forget Her:

Hope Of States – Black Dollar Bills:

Nine Inch NailsToday I read a post on Google Reader about Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor offering tracks from his new album Ghosts I-IV as a free download. After Radiohead’s trailblazing move of releasing their music for however much people were willing to pay for it, there was talk of who would be next to follow in their wake. Obviously established artists with a large fan base can afford a more “experimental” way of distributing their music and with Reznor’s anti-music industry stance, it’s not too surprising to see Nine Inch Nails follow suite. Indeed, when the official NIN website went down under the huge demand, the original files were then released on the infamous torrent site Pirate Bay for download there.

The album itself is a vague concept work: Reznor and various musicians recorded with a strict 10 week deadline and no overlying theme. The results would be released regardless of what was recorded. Initially thought of being a 5 track EP, Ghosts I-IV has sprawled into a 36 track album made up of instrumentals or “mood pieces”. Clearly Trent Reznor has moved far away from the heavy, industrial sounds of his popular albums and further from the sleek electronica of the last NIN album, Year Zero.  However the concept at face value does remind me of the last M83 album, a disappointing collection of short soundscapes that needed to be fully fleshed out as songs. Ghosts I-IV. Indeed, with only 9 tracks lasting 27 minutes in total, Ghosts I-IV is a brief listen. Only “7 GhostsI” with it’s rumbling guitar and scratching sounds and “8 Ghosts I” with it’s distorted electronics reminds me of NIN of old. As a collection of mood music, the small samples I’ve heard work well.

The stall set out by Ghosts I-IV is a good one. Along with 9 DRM-free tracks, my download included a PDF booklet with photography that accompanies the music. There were also NIN graphics and wallpaper which is a nice touch.  What’s also interesting is the tracks are published under Creative Commons, a digital rights licence that allows users to share, remix and distribute the music itself meaning this is music that’s ripe for remixing, sampling and mashups.  So before the week is out, we could see remixes of these tracks all over the internet. Right now, almost every single song is on Youtube with a static art video. It’s all there.Yes, this is a brave new age of music upon us. But I don’t think Ghosts I-IV will be the landmark album that will truly usher in that era.

Nine Inch Nails – 28 Ghosts IV:




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