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Nine Inch Nails gives
us The Slip

Nine Inch Nails - The Slip
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 16, 2008

Review by Tony Bonyata

Funny but with the rise in popularity of the single format (albeit if only in compressed digital format, as opposed to the popular seven-inch vinyl 45 record back in its heyday), as well as the prolific nature that established artists are releasing both new full-length albums and singles, it seems that many of the music trends of the '60s are back in style these days. Toss in the fact that while compact disc sales continue to decline (in favor of digital music files) the interest and popularity of vinyl continues to be a blossoming niche market; adding even more weight to the old adage, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same.'

But while these trends may hearken back to the glory days for both labels and fans, the truth is, since the advent of the MP3 the music business has been turned on its ear, and in the case of some major labels who fought the digital revolution instead of trying to harness and capitalize on it in its infancy, it's, more often than not, been a deaf ear.

Soured by the old ways of doing business under both old regimes and outdated models, many established acts have been dumping their major label deals to explore new alternative ways of recording and distributing their music. Two of the most newsworthy of these artists are Radiohead who, after leaving EMI after their contract expired, let fans pay whatever they wanted to for the digital download of their In Rainbows album last October, and Nine Inch Nails, who a few months later followed suit with the March release of Ghosts I-IV, which along with offering the entire album as a free digital download from their website, it was also released as two-CD set, a double vinyl set, as well as a limited deluxe edition with CDs, vinyl, DVD, Giclee prints and hardcover book signed and numbered by NIN's fountainhead Trent Reznor (it should be noted that while this package retailed for a whopping $300 the 2,500 units immediately sold-out. So much for theory that fans aren't willing to pay for music - or at least well-packaged music - these days).

Now just a mere two months after the release of Ghosts I-IV Nine Inch Nails have not only released an entire album of new material, entitled The Slip, but Reznor is giving it away to his fans for free in multiple formats including high-quality MP3s, FLAC and 24-bit/96kHz WAVE, along with a PDF file of hi-resolution CD artwork. Reznor explains his motive for this generous offering on his website, "Thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years - this one's on me." He goes on to say, "We encourage you to remix it, share it with your friends, post it on your blog, play it on your podcast, give it to strangers, etc."

While this freebie will undoubtedly please hardcore fans of NIN, it probably isn't the best introduction for the uninitiated. Over the past few releases Reznor has been moving away from his more aggressive, in-your-face style of industrial music in favor of white-noise soundscapes, ambient dirges and electro-shock values. The Slip opens with the dark and brooding instrumental "999,999," before things pick up with the frenetic rockers "1,000,000," "Letting You" and again later on with the heavy bass-laden groove of "Head Down." In a similar, if somewhat more subdued, vein as these harder-rocking numbers, the first single "Discipline" mixes angst-ridden vocals with a wall of controlled noise led by a simplistic piano melody.

Things get moodier and downright depressing on the introspective number "Lights In The Sky," with Reznor's whisper buried just under the mix as a simple monochromatic piano-line casts the occasional spec of light on the heavy shadows, before he slips into the dark, ambient abyss of "Corona Radiata." The following instrumental dirge "The Four Of Us Are Dying" likewise proves that two decades into his recording career Reznor still isn't the happiest of souls.

Through all the mire, however, Reznor is still continuing to stretch out creatively. And although he may not be producing the quality of material of earlier industrial masterpieces such as The Downward Spiral and The Fragile, it's really hard to look this gift horse in the mouth.

To download Nine Inch Nails' The Slip for free log onto:

Listen to Nine Inch Nails - "Letting You"

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