Thursday, 5 January 2017

Review: Nine Inch Nails – 'The Fragile: Deviations 1'

'The Fragile: Deviations 1'

No sooner had Trent Reznor announced the new EP 'Not The Actual Events' that he also gives us a rather unusual offering in the form of 'The Fragile: Deviations 1'. The title alludes to more deviations to come, but that not withstanding the album is a reworked version of the 1999 double CD opus sans vocals. While there is an inherent purity to the music in its presentation here, it may prove a decisive release between those who year for any material with the NIN moniker attached, and those for whom the original album is a cornerstone of their musical identity.

Objectively though, 'The Fragile: Deviations 1' is a beautiful album. 'The Fragile' in it's original form was beautiful as well, but by giving this the instrumental treatment and focusing on the deep layering of the tracks and the pure skill of Reznor and co. the album presents a more meditative and and intimate listening experience that almost encourages the listener to fill-in the blanks. It is a similar effect and feeling gleaned from the instrumental and improvisational 'Ghosts I-IV'.

Given this instrumental orientation and reconstructed approach the new album yields elements that were otherwise lost in the mix on the original or overshadowed by Reznor's vocal performance. Given that at the time of the original release Reznor told MTV's Kurt Loder that he “wasn’t sure what I wanted to say musically. So I didn’t.” the album, even in an instrumental form, says a hell of a lot for itself through the juxtaposition of dark and light, harsh and melodic, and through the complex nature of its composition.

While fans of the original album may initially shy away from the thought of buying a new version, it does have some benefits with new tracks, b-sides, and alternate versions not hear on the previous version. Songs such as 'Missing Places', 'One Way To Get There', 'Taken', 'White Mask', 'Can I Stay Hear', 'Feeders', 'Claustrophobia Machine (Raw)', and 'Last Heard From' fit into the album's track list with ease and give an extra experimental dimension to what is already an impressive album.

It may be a hard sell for some but 'The Fragile: Deviations 1' is certainly worth the money for long-time NIN fans. It is a strong album in it's own right that adds a new dimension to the original. While it may find ready favour with collectors it is not purely one of those releases for the sake of it, and it is obvious Reznor has taken his time in preparing this for public consumption. It will also be interesting to see what further deviations he has planned in the future.  

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