How To Destroy Angels - How To Destroy Angels

Edmund Townend 22/07/2010

Rating: 3.5/5

After twenty odd years as front man - and only man - of Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor has taken a step away from the industrial behemoth to create a new project, How To Destroy Angels. The name comes from one of Reznor's influences Coil in the form of an EP title. Reznor's new six track EP is also the first time he has fully collaborated with other artists - Atticus Ross and Mariqueen Mandig (Reznor's wife). Although a furore built up (and is still going, stoked and ignited by a more malicious side of NIN's fan base) about his new collaborative and marital partner, Mandig's credentials ring true as a former member of low-key but startlingly fresh Los Angeles group West Indian Girl. Her voice breathes new life into the already familiar creativity harboured by Reznor and Ross in their collaborations on previous NIN records Year Zero and Ghosts I-IV.

Reznor also continues with his revolutionary ideas about the music business, releasing three songs from the EP slowly and in different ways. 'A Drowning', the first to be released, was given away as a free single. The song incorporates both the harshness of lo-fi chip tune beats and a gentle yet eerie piano score accompanied by the soft whispering voice of Mandig. The lyrics are reminiscent of Reznor's obsessions with water in 'The Fragile' but it was soon revealed that all the lyrics were written by Mandig. The sampling undertaken by the two producers is extensive and well thought-out; a stark contrast to the strongly debated 'The Slip' which to some fans seemed rushed and bare compared the complexity usually shown by Nine Inch Nails. However, strains of past work become apparent in the noisy outro before it descends into soft musings again.

Opening track 'The Space in Between' was released to the masses in the form of a breathtaking music video depicting all three members of the new project in an ambiguous murder and arson scene. It created waves of critique of the outstanding video and new direction when released on the music site Pitchfork. The much darker sound became apparent compared to the softer debut song. The song and video were perfect tasters for the EP to come, leaving viewers and listeners with an abrupt ending. The lyrics somehow echoed the controversy surrounding Reznor and Mandig's relationship "Sense the crowd expecting something more/Opened up, proudly on display/What we tried so hard to hide away".

The third and final song to be released before the EP was 'The Believers'. This was released as a guide to constructing a song in Wired Magazine's new iPad app. Wiley fans soon were able to release the song to the general public. The song marked another change in approach, with more organic sounds with the use of marimbas and jungle drums. It also finally introduced Reznor on vocals, but deeply buried under Mandig's whispering and multi-layered tones. The song was soon released as an incentive for pre-ordering the free EP. Critics who expected Reznor to tone down his work were proven wrong by the continued dark lyrics and sounds emanating from his home studio. The amount of production included showed remarkable involvement from Reznor's long time collaborative - but until this point not creative - partner Atticus Ross who worked on all of Reznor's projects from With Teeth, including work on Saul Williams, Jane's Addiction and (the unreleased) Zack de la Rocha projects.

The full EP was released on the 1st June and included three new tracks. 'Parasite' is a rough and noisy attacking track, with heavy bass and guitar work over a warped and unique drum beat before revealing a strangely effected vocal line that descends into a spitting whisper of the track's title. The track incorporates an uncomfortable amount of noise that will have an unaware listener mistake it for something unlistenable. 'Fur Lined' employs a disco beat in a similar vein to tracks 'Only' and 'Discipline' from Reznor's back catalogue. Mandig's voice is faded and effected to create a strange new angle. The track is certainly a looser and less experimental effort, although the lack of a strong vocal line and noisy guitar saves it from being defined as pop. The following synth solo includes reference to another of the trio's influences Kraftwerk (also sampled by a band Reznor loathes, Coldplay). The final new track is 'BBB', an acronym of 'Big Black Boots' a rather sadomasochistic-ally themed track incorporating both Mandig and Reznor's voices chanting simultaneous orders accompanied by harsh buzzing samples and synths before dropping quietly into a repeated recitation of the title. The song builds to a familiar climax as employed in the dystopian creation of Year Zero with the sound of marching.

This release is certainly a new experimental direction made by Reznor, Mandig and Ross which with the freedom of an independent release and media interest has become widely accessed and downloaded for free. If How To Destroy Angels were signed to a major label, a release like this would not go down favourably. This is an example of how the music industry is stifling releases as creative as this one, but even so they may have taken the time to polish and perfect the songs into a wieldier debut. However, plans have been announced for a full length album and following tour (now on hold due to Mandig's pregnancy) so we may see an improved form of what initially appears to be a promising new project. Reznor and Ross are also working on the soundtrack to the upcoming David Fincher movie based on the creation of Facebook, as well as collaborations with Gary Numan and Peter Murphy.

Release date: Out now