Sound — 6
Singer/songwriter/industrial rock shaman Trent Reznor is marking his 43rd birthday with the release of Nine Inch Nails new album The Slip. Produced by Reznor, Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder, The Slip comes out one month after NIN released their Ghosts I-IV album featuring thirty-six instrumental tracks that experiment with sound waves, mechanical textures and various levels of penetration channeling electronic effects and processed beats into the mix. The Slip has all of those too but weighs it's instrumental tracks evenly with it's vocal tracks, so fans who like Reznor's bluesy rock timbres will be pleased. The music is a stirring cauldron of machine-sounding twists, automated movements and fictional effects juxtaposed by industrial-soaked passages, downbeat grooves, electro-flashing parcels, and sonic illusions producing a free flowing opiate-crazed oasis. Whether you like NIN or not won't make a difference because any judgment you have of Reznor supersedes his skills to experiment with sounds by manipulating their tones, contrasts, volume, and sharpness. The Slip is not like listening to NIN's previous hits like Head Like A Hole or Closer, but there is no straying away from the crunchy industrial sounds that have long been associated with NIN. Some tracks loom of dark and disturbing turbulences like Hero Down and the downward spirals of Demon Seed, whose illbient textures and industrial crunching create sensations that can be described as elegant pain and internal torturing personified in it's dazed soundscapes and gloomy distorted phrases. Reznor has never been one to have songs that adhere to the typical song structure where verses and choruses are put together in an orderly fashion. Rather, the passages have a serpentine glide and the vocals will grab at the notes and smear like spray paint across the electro-spheres in the track Lights In The Sky where the pulsating keyboards seem motionless beneath Reznor's vocal hip-hop digs and careens. His pitch has a bluesy texture similar to Lenny Kravitz which is noticeable in Letting You and 1, 000, 000. The programming is cutting-edge and highly moody. Numbers like Discipline and Echoplex rack up club music with processed beats relatable to Bauhaus and Rage Against The Machine. The album turns to static vapors completely void of emotion on Corona Radiata as if the soundscapes are traveling through outer space, while The Four Of Us Are Dying have a more seductive appeal with eerie sound effects and astro-glides. The Slip has some aspects of NIN's previous releases, and yet, it is something entirely different. The album enters another realm of electronic music that isn't for clubs but propagates fantasy theatrics.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics, similar to the music, have a dark and eerie tone to them like in Lights In The Sky where Reznor sounds as if he is entering the gloomiest recesses of his mind. He expresses, She's mostly gone / Some other place / I'm getting by / In other ways / Everything they whispered in our ear is coming true / Try to justify the things I used to do / Believe in you / Watching you drown / I'll follow you down / And I am here right beside you / The lights in the sky / Have finally arrived / I am staying right beside you. The dark and macabre is still very much a part of NIN's music.
Overall Impression — 7
The Slip is impressive in the way that it experiments with electronic elements and the shape of the rhythms, which sometimes are non-existent like in the vapid tones of Corona Radiata. Other times the processed beats have a crazed-Frankenstein stomp like in Demon Seed. Nail Inch Nails, much like their music, is constantly changing with Trent Reznor as the band's single permanent member. In it's present incarnation, Reznor is accompanied by drummer Josh Freese, guitarist Robin Finck, and keyboardist Alessandro Cortini. Similar to people's perceptions of a mad scientist Reznor is very much like one, always experimenting with sounds and on the cutting edge of avant-music so deeply bizarre. In Reznor's case, he thinks of innovative ways to change industrial rock and avant-electronica. The music is creepy and spooky but once you understand where Reznor is coming from by applying the character of a mad scientist to him, the music starts to become a piece of enlightenment and a lot less frightening.