Monday, May 05, 2008

Nine Inch Nails - The Slip

First, what do I know about Nine Inch Nails. Virtually nothing, the guy who is whatever in it, Trent Reznor. And I have an album, maybe I've had more, things come and go. Downward Spiral, I know, I bought it when it first came out. But being an expert in NIN's recorded output -- or even that one particular album -- nope, I ain't.

That doesn't mean I don't recognize a bargain when I see it, since this new album is a free download at their site. I've already listened to the first four or five tracks and like it so far. But I'm going to back up and do this blog entry about it, because I do like it.

1) 999,999 - Ethereal rising of sounds, short track (1:25), increasing in volume, like a factory doing quiet work. Some voices indistinct. Segues into....

2) 1,000,000 - (3:56). Very cool immediate, insistent guitars, and great vocal interplay. I love it, and being not a big fan over the years, I'm struck by how accessible (conventional?) of a song this is. "I feel a million years away, I don't feel anything at all." This will be a favorite track of mine, I'm sure, since it's like audio medicine for needy souls (I'm funny, right, but sincere in that.) Ooo, I like the layers here of dirty guitars. "So high, so far to fall." A million miles away! Great one, goes like that till an abrupt ending.

3) Letting You - (3:49). Starts with drums and jagged, nervous guitars. Some industrial grime tossed into the mix, processed trebly voice. Nice nervous breakdown sound. It's getting very thick, less conventional than the 2nd track, but as nice as can be. The voices fall out and the guitars exchange a few notes, then back into the singing. A very muddy sound, like snarling. Cheaper than a therapist, and probably more understanding, crank it up. Distorts itself into oblivion, nicely.

4) Discipline - (4:19). This one has a great guitar/drum thing going on. And very casual vocals, very honest sounding. Probably not as casual as it sounds. I do like "raggedness" in art, or anything really. Blog writing. Ragged is good. This is just a blissful song, shouldn't be challenging to anyone's nerves, even with pretty bits, a piano, oo-oo's in the vocals. Simple, nice. "Once I start, I cannot stop myself, I need your discipline, I need your help." This is a restraining sentiment, so I guess there's some positive vibes there.

5) Echoplex - (4:45). Very clean sound, drums, guitar. Lone vocal, immediate, close to you. A simple, stripped down sound and feeling. After a bit there's some more complex layering introduced. "My voice just echoes off these walls." It goes on like that, a comfortable song, nothing especially challenging to the senses here. Interesting mood music, which I like, the introspective, not utterly predictable sound, enough things to listen to. Could really be background music, not meant as an insult. Toward the end there's more going on simultaneously, then it simplifies, strips down again.

6) Head Down - (4:55). Synthesizer type of thing with distortion, guitar distorted, clean drum to start. Then a voice, clear, addressing audience in brief snippets of lyrics. Interplay of instruments has machine like give and take. Impressionistic to me, personally, like a printing press, gears going around, etc. I like the mixture of cleanness and density. It's a very organized song, conventional while still being interesting. This is my first time through, and I like it (not always a good sign). But the density is challenging enough to remain interesting for many other listens. I like the instrumental break, it's more haphazard, like splotches of sound thrown against the wall. At the end it all goes away, and sounds like something over-processed on Cool Edit.

7) Lights In The Sky - (3:29). Very very laid back beginning, piano and subdued vocal, then going on like that. Sounds like a demo so far, kind of like what a John Lennon demo sounds like, different voice of course. Second draft kind of thing, first recording. I don't know, I'm not too whoopie for this one.

8) Corona Radiata - (7:33). A long song here. Opens with a menacing humming drone, like a beast on the horizon, getting closer. Going on like that, texture going a couple ways in a very patient, whaaaaaa, then a more trebly eeeee announcing itself (don't you love my technical musicese?). Drone it out, whaa whaa eee. Hovering overhead, like a helicopter cutting out some of the whack whack whack, and overprocessing it, that's what it would sound like. Now it's settling down for a long winter's nap. I have my thinking cap on. This should be the last sound I hear just before I fall asleep. Maybe my dreams would have a more linear stability to them, which would be a welcome change. We're moving on, not too much difference, except there's some distant, approaching hoofbeats, closer. Then like a drum in a distant apartment or car driving by, if there were something wrong with your ears. This I would call a tone piece, like something to lift weights to (not heavy heavy weights, just 15 pounders, or 20 at the most.) You get good impressions, like maybe a crowd of people is being portrayed, a bunch of communists in dark grey costumes and strange faces, like something from My Chemical Romance. The people are crying for their freedom. The piece is building, struggling either to live or die, and since we have to be getting toward the end, probably the latter. Now some crazy birds pop in, only to be liquidated by a bubbling guitar or droning killing tank.

9) The Four of Us Are Dying - (4:37). I like the whole clean-cut sense of things here. Everything is very much in sync. Beat-beat-beat, dom, dom, dom, Duane Eddy on acid in the background, maybe Link Wray smiling in there somewhere. Reminds me of something with tusks. Ponderous, like machines tapping out Morse Code, machines that are working well. The guitars are like wrenches being thrown into the gears. But it still flows along like a well-oiled ship's motor. Big, powerful, death screams, being electrocuted. Then fading down to a manageable drone. Here is a high pitched weee thing, and the mix starts building again, not slowly. Ponderosity is back, and nice. I could call this the Ponderosa, it's certainly big and expansive enough to be a ranch. And since the album was free that was a Bonanza for me. Hard guitars and out.

10) Demon Seed - (4:55). This is going to round out the album. It starts heavy enough, and very clean. This sounds like the kind of song I can sink my teeth in. And since I'm getting a filling tomorrow, it's just in time. Some actual vocals are back, with a breathy vocal deeper in the mix. The instruments are all heavy, still with a very clean sound. Heavy, beautiful. It's the sound of words back there, which I don't entirely understand because I was focused on the music. This is a favorite track, one of them, so far. About midway the vocals are more front but the instruments don't fade. There's a 'yeah yeah yeah yeah' from other voices, higher pitched. Then with that gone, the instruments are like slam-slam, a door falling on you over and over. Very pretty, lavish instrumentation. The vocals more insistent, the yeah-yeah-yeah's back. Then it cuts off and dizzies down into some other more peaceful valley or realm. The instruments are a little bit on fire, wondering where they should go next. I hear a few backfires, sparks leaping off. Then it's wild man at the sledge again, more so than before. Very heavy, digging in for the long haul, I would guess. We're crescendoing it to the door, is my guess. Sweet song, one that I'm going to have a nice time listening to when I'm not busy typing at the same time. Then it just clips off. Silence.

I would call this, overall, a fairly conventional album, accessible to my shriveled up ears, although I was already in the mood for it. There's nothing I heard that would leave you feeling worse than you already feel. And plenty, actually, to cheer you up and give you a sense of understanding. Sound, albums can do that, and I believe this one hits the mark.

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