Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Review: Nine Inch Nails – 'Not The Actual Events'

'Not The Actual Events'

Trent Reznor promised new NIN material in 2016 and he left it pretty close to the wire before announcing the first original EP release from the band since 1992's 'Broken', in the form of 'Not The Actual Events'. While the last NIN album 'Hesitation Marks' was released via Columbia / Polydor, 'NTAE' sees Trent (and for the first time official NIN member Atticus Ross) return to The Null Corporation label that was previously set-up to self-release NIN albums such as 'The Slip', as well as How To Destroy Angels, and Trent & Atticus' soundtracks for 'The Social Network' and 'The Girl With The Dragon tattoo'. What this means for NIN's release model in the future is unknown, but with vinyl re-releases planned and a special edition of 'The Fragile' on the cards, it looks like 2017 will be a busy year for fans.

But back to the new EP. Trent described the sound of 'NTAE' as being “unfriendly” and “fairly impenetrable”. While this may bring to mind the previously mentioned 'Broken' EP for a lot of fans, that isn't quite what he meant. What we get here is thick walls of noisy atmospheres, drone rock and thick, soupy production. It is still damn catchy though with tracks such as 'Branches / Bones', 'Dear World', and 'The Idea Of You' in particular making good use of simple but addictive rhythms combined with signature NIN guitars, synths and vocal hooks.

The tracks that may divide most though are the slow and malevolently methodical 'She's Gone Away', and the low-fi drone rock of 'Burning Bright (Field On Fire)'. Although these are recognisably NIN tracks when you break them down they still present a swerve in style compared to the recent albums that may throw some. But they still have merit and really 'Burning Bright (Field On Fire)' is a very addictive track.

As mentioned the production is thick, noisy and very raw. A marked difference from Trent and Atticus' film work as well as the more recent NIN and HTDA output. It feels hasty, paranoid and thrown together, as though it was written and recorded quickly and as an antidote to their film work in order to rediscover their dissonant roots.

In that respect the EP is a success. It is a rawer and more impenetrable NIN sound certainly than we have been used to recently, but at the same time very organic and recognisable. It's a sonic demon rearing it's head from the early 90s that needed to be exorcised in 2016. This probably won't be a major indicator for what the next full-length NIN album will probably sound like, and may remain an experimental oddity in the band's lengthy discography. But it is definitely enjoyable and NIN fans that prefer the band's more noisy expressions will undoubtedly get into this. 

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