Nine Inch Nails - The Slip

Edmund Townend 08/05/2008

Rating: 5/5

Seriously, if anyone else calls releasing music for free online 'doing a Radiohead' in my presence I will… well, I won't do anything besides tell them they're stupidly ignorant… but bands have been releasing free music since broadband internet became available, and anyone to say Radiohead pioneered this method of music distribution should do some music research. However, the vast majority of music appreciators do not care about this… so yeah, Nine Inch Nails have done a Radiohead for the second time. Part one of Ghosts I-IV was released for free and the rest available to buy, whilst hardcore (and wealthy fans) forked out $300 for the limited edition copies (all hand-signed by Trent Reznor - who has been Nine Inch Nails since his debut Pretty Hate Machine). The Slip however, is ten free complete tracks for your listening pleasure straight from the website.

The Slip opens with 999,999 the introduction of the album, a pulsing crescendo of ambient industrial sound commonly heard in Trent Reznor's last release Ghosts I-IV. Reznor has finally seemed to be able to balance the clean cut computer noises of With Teeth and Year Zero with the synthesized sound of 'The Downward Spiral'. The track ends with Reznor talking - 'When did I slip into…”

And so begins 1,000,000… It opens with a common Josh Freese (current NIN drummer and session drummer for over 100 different bands) smash-the-drums-as-hard-as-you-can intro. Synthed guitar kicks in and any hardcore fan would immediately spout up 'That's Robin Finck!' - Guns 'n' Roses' ex-guitarist (who previously toured with Reznor and returned to replace ex-Icarus Line lead Aaron North - yes, I'm going to continue with the multiple connections, so keep up).

After snide critics welcomed the chance not to hear Reznor “whining” on 'Ghosts' it seems he's held his muscular exterior through vocals, and aggressively chants the opening lines “kind of hard to see/when you crawl/on your hands and your knees”. The lyrics echo Year Zero's snubbing of oppression in a fictional future and soon the song descends into chaos. The distortion provided by the synth keys of Allesandro Cortini mingles with Finck's repetitive chords and the bassline to give aural confusion. From the virtual sleeve notes it seems that this is the first Nine Inch Nails to be recorded by the majority of the live band, excluding the new addition of ex-80's Matchbox… lead guitarist Rich Fownes. The vocals are lost in the mesh of dirty sound and soon the track loses control into a wailing synth solo. The structure of the songs disappointingly for fans of pre-00's NIN isn't as messy as 'Downward Spiral' and still echoes of the glorified mainstream of 'With Teeth'. Reznor has taken full advantage of new computer technology as soon as it appears (as is the case with *sigh* 'doing a Radiohead') and works tirelessly at a laptop to create new music whilst on tour.

So, for the rest of 'The Slip' - 'Letting You' is a haunting and aggressive attack on the government and the public simultaneously with Reznor declaring “we are letting you get away with it!”. Track four and the first preview track that Reznor released for free download - Discipline sounds like 'Only' from 'With Teeth' and has invoked a fan-created parody of the YMCA video based on lyrics such as “I see you left a mark/up and down my skin/I need your discipline”. Quite, but then if you know Nine Inch Nails, you know 'Closer' which is slightly less subtle than Discipline. Echoplex was the second track released by Reznor on the global networking site Facebook to baying fans eager for more from the impending album.

Echoplex is named after both an early musical delay processor and a Los Angeles music venue, however it seems the former is the one that Reznor is referring to as he harmonizes “my voice just echoes of these walls/I don't need anything at all”. Head Down opens with more of Nine Inch Nails' favoured style - distortion and it's ambiguous lyrics are either open to intense interpretation or the realisation that they're completely random. Reznor has found a balance in The Slip between ambience and noise that for an artist with seven successful studio albums couldn't come sooner. Head Down is the epitome of Reznor's struggle to release himself from his label and gain complete creative control with a song that encapsulates perfection and chaos simultaneously.

With most of Nine Inch Nails' albums, some songs flow into each other smoothly and perfectly and Head Down, which is quite an aggressive track ambiences itself into the chilling and beautiful Lights in the Sky, which features Reznor accompanying his barely audible vocals on piano. Despite Reznor's success as a producer, it is clear that Atticus Ross (long time colleague of Reznor) and other engineers have helped Reznor with this stray away from the norm and created a perfect mix of simple and moving song. For fans this is a crucial song, as it is Reznor's first sincere non-sexualised love song possibly since With Teeth or even before.

The quiet calming song in comparison to the rest of the noisy album (bar the introduction) changes into a throbbing ambience which brings the listener into the 'Ghosts' conceptual ideas. The 7 and a half minute song is a strain on your skip finger but the ambience is well controlled by Reznor who shifts through melodies throughout and at four minutes delves into dark synthesized percussion and back into melodies, gloomier than before. This is Corona Radiata, and it shows fans of 'Ghosts' that this type of music is not a one off for NIN. The whole song is an intense exploration and test of the listener. The next track The Four of Us Are Dying is also instrumental, but not completely computer based. Guitar is surprisingly undistorted to create weaving melodies over a mechanical drum loop and ambience. Robin Finck's influence dips in and out with scraping distorted guitar and three minutes in more distorted synth echoes the 'Year Zero' sound. The song climaxes into military form and leads into the finale - 'Demon Seed'. It opens just as the album started, with harsh drums and distortion and continues much in the same fashion with repeated lyrics in four parts. Different distortion frequents in bursts and silence is used with colossal influxes of sound. Reznor is toying with music experimenters everywhere, using sounds from the start of synthesized music up to the edges of musical capability from the time of release. He's also realised the correct balance between instrumental and vocals to please both critics and his fan base. After the ten free tracks are up, it is easy to see that Nine Inch Nails have created industrial musical perfection - and all with no label behind them.Download 'The Slip' at or buy it when it is released this July.