Sound: It seems to be the season of remixes in the rock world. Along with fellow synth-friendly band The Gorillaz, the always-inventive Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails have released their 4th remix album, which features the songs of Year Zero. The new CD not-so-succinctly titled Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D adds completely new dimensions to songs that already have enough samples and keyboards in them to sound like a remix. With the help of artists like The Faint, Saul Williams, and the Kronos Quartet, the usual melancholy NIN vibe is transformed into dance hits, hip-hop numbers, and even symphonic movements.
All of the changes add up to a very different sound, and at some points it's for the better. While the album Year Zero had some great musical moments, Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D covers a lot of musical genres -- which might not be what a lot of fans want or need. When you compare the original NIN tracks to the newer versions, about half of them are similar interpretations and the other half is actually more interesting than the Year Zero tunes. A lot of the remixes stay true to Reznor's original vision, with Vessel and The Warning among them. While the general arrangement on The Warning is the same, it actually cuts back on the electronica element and replaces it with more of a tribal beat.
There are a few standout tracks that blow the originals away, and even as remixes, those songs couldn't be more different from each other. The Faint has taken Meet Your Master and made it into almost an 80's breakdance song. It injects a lot of life into the song and immediately makes an impression. Enrique Gonzalez Muller and the Kronos Quartet transform the sullen piano number Another Version Of The Truth into a breathtaking, and often times happy, orchestral piece. It goes in a very different emotional direction and accentuates the strong core of the song.
Saul Williams, the spoken word/hip-hop artists who showed up on Year Zero, also took a few stabs on the remix album. Gunshots By Computer and Survivalism (which he provided backing vocals for on Year Zero) are his 2 contributions, both of which feature rapped sections. Gunshots By Computer is actually a pretty fascinating listen, particularly considering it takes the instrumental track Hyperpower and adds new lyrics, complements of Williams. // 8
Lyrics: Pretty much all of the lyrical content showed up previously on the Year Zero album, with the exception of Williams' rapped additions in Gunshots By Computer. There is everything from apocalyptic themes (The Warning) to 2007's version of Closer (Vessel), and Reznor does a solid job as usual at conveying intense emotion. A lot of the remixes chop up the lyrics to suit a beat, but in songs like Zero-Sum you are still given the full rundown of the words. // 9
Overall Impression: The remix CD is available in a few different forms (digital, CD/DVD-Rom combo, and triple vinyl), with the DVD portion featuring the same track listing along with a demo of Ableton Live. Another cool feature is you're given the option of remixing if you've got Microsoft and Windows systems. It would have been nice to have a few other extras besides the remixing content, but there are plenty of fans that will probably have a lot of fun with it.
NIN is no stranger to remix albums and Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D definitely is one of the most diverse. When the album is good, it's amazing -- but there are quite a few moments when the songs don't stray enough from the original format to make it worth our while. Among the 14 songs there is a good amount of quality content, and if the album does anything, it will allow the most talented of the remixers to make a name for themselves. // 7