There is so much to be said about Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. For now though, I’ll focus attention on his new album Hesitation Marks and Tension 2013 tour. It’s a joy to listen to; especially on a loud soundsystem, bumpin’ car stereo or quality headphones. The detail, the effects and the ultra clear productions takes you on quite the trip.
The album opens with “The Eater of Dreams”, a droney production that makes me picture some dead thing swingin’ in the wind…or maybe a creepy rusty swingset, I dunno. “Copy Of A” follows, with a punchy techno-ish, electro-ish beat, signaling that this album will have a more percussive, dance-oriented feel. Reznor acknowledged a connection between this album and his debut Pretty Hate Machine. Here’s an exert from his recent Fader interview..
“It seems like the new album is the closest you’ve come to making full-on dance music since Pretty Hate Machine. What was your inspiration? It wasn’t a plan. Usually, before I start any new record or collection of stuff, the first chunk of time is spent feeling around in the dark to see what feels inspiring. With The Slip, for example, what was inspiring was this kind of rule where we said, Let’s make it sound like garage electronics. Nothing gets fixed, there are no double-takes, there’s no tuning of vocals. Put mics on everything, nothing direct. We’d check those rules before we’d start a new song. Everything was done quickly and it was fun.
This record, I gravitated toward writing everything on an MPC-type composer, this Native Instruments machine that I had set up in my office. I had so much fun that it became my self-imposed limitation. I’m not gonna use a keyboard; I’m not gonna use guitars because they’re boring. I’m gonna use pads. Let me start the songs that way. And probably a hundred separate ideas came out from that phase. Then [I’d] bring those downstairs into the real studio and flesh them out a bit with my guys, Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder.
Maybe it’s a reaction to my [work scoring films], which was all about texture and studies in different moods and ambiences and atmospheres. Rhythm sounded more interesting to me. It wasn’t a situation where I was listening to a lot of EDM—not consciously anyway. I wasn’t trying to make a record people could dance to.”
I wouldn’t say I’m a Nine Inch Nails super fan. I don’t know everything about Trent’s work, and haven’t listened intensely through his very dense discography. That being said I’ve heard a lot and enjoy the variety of sounds and instruments used in each album. He seems to be about evolution and trying new things, this is nothing new. In regards to his current sound on Hesitation Marks, I think it’s perfect for both the time and Reznor’s natural progression as an artist. The worldwide dance community could take a lot of notes from Trent’s aesthetic; a hybrid of hardware, band oriented instruments, live vocals and digital technology. He isn’t known for club oriented music for the majority of his career, but if I heard about a late night place with the vibes of Nine Inch Nails, I’d be there in an instant.
In addition his fresh perspective on music, I like the parallels between NIN’s lyrics and the real world we find ourselves in. My favorite song on the new album for instance, “Satellite”. There’s a line that goes..
“Better watch,what you think
What was that, you said?
Everywhere, and everything And every word, you say.”
Drones and massive spying on citizens have become major issues; killer robots send missiles from above, leaving many civilians dead around the world. Other robots and technologies have the task of conducting massive surveillance on anyone they please.
Instead of being the early Nine Inch Nails prophet of a world just around the corner, this new album arrives right in the middle of it. It’s a world of government control, surveillance, drone warfare, Monsanto and unsustainable pollution. It’s also a world on the edge of new human consciousness, with the potential for positive growth. NIN is highly advanced, for its ability to vividly show reality, express emotion and open up discussion for possibilities, both positive and negative.
While some longstanding artists seem totally comfortable with sounding like shit, so long as their making a lot of money, Trent holds the torch for live performance mastery two decades in. I saw the last Nine Inch Nails show in Portland, and thought that would be my only chance to witness this genius. Thankfully, Trent has returned. As I type, the NIN crew is setting the stage for tonight’s Seattle show. A huge thank you to Patrick Cronin for giving me his ticket. I’ll use it well.
Here’s the crew themselves, talking about the Tension 2013 Tour. Obviously, they do a much better job explaining the set up than I could. Enjoy.
Trent Reznor – Twitter
– Jimi Jaxon