Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I
Record Label: The Null Corporation
Release Date: March 2, 2008
According to Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy, anyone on the planet can be connected with anyone else through no more than five acquaintances, or intermediaries. His theory, called “Six Degrees of Separation” which was developed in Karinthy’s 1929 short story, "Chains," has arguably become a staple of late-night, around the fire philosophy talks. The theory implies that you or I can be connected to any single individual on this planet through five other people. Some of you may be asking what this has to do with Nine Inch Nails’ newest release Ghosts I-IV. The truth lies in the connection between Nine Inch Nail’s mastermind Trent Reznor and myself, through a friend whose aunt actually dated Reznor. With that being said, I’ve never had the privilege of meeting Reznor, but due to the fact that Nine Inch Nails are now label-less, the band has hopped on the same wagon Radiohead jumped on less than three months ago—they're giving away their album for free, except they're doing it a little different by giving away only the first part of the 36 song album, Ghosts I.
First, I’ll start by saying that I’ve never been a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails. Although I have heard them on the radio and through friends' recommendations, I’ve never given them much attention. But I will say this: as a whole, Ghosts I is nothing I expected it to be. The album feels disconnected, and reviewing it as such would be difficult. Therefore, a track-by-track description is warranted.
The first track, simply numbered as “1,” commissions the listener with a soft elegant piano playing a melody sprinkled with atonal notes. An electronic buzzing modulates in the background, and the resonant molding of the two elements creates a sonic landscape that makes me feel much like a spectator at a slow ballroom dance. “2” is very similar in structure and tonality to “1,” including only ornate piano and a buzzing electronic panorama. “3” moves away from the dull soundscapes into an electronic drum beat that is neither grunge nor industrial, adding an angular guitar riff and hints of African flavor amidst the accumulation of percussion. In dénouement, the song reaches a climax not in dynamics, instead adding creaking door sounds and exotic animalistic noises. “4” changes scope again, this time taking advantage of a deeply distorted guitar, red-lighting and green-lighting over a neutral strummed acoustic, creating a striking dichotomy of expression. “5” forms the background music to a western gunfight with the obligatory electronic loop in the background. “6” incorporates a curious xylophone melody which soon reaches ennui after repeating the same lone pattern for over four minutes. “7” takes off with a groovy beat, adding grunge guitar and an electronic keyboard about halfway through the song that reminds me of electronic-driven predecessors Mute Math. “8” is the heaviest of all the tracks, with chugging guitar and spiking electronic feedback, offering a subtle careening guitar line in the background. The album closes with “9,” again returning to soft piano. The song fools the listener with somewhat of a fake closing, switching over to what seems to be a building string ending, but sharply cuts off and returns back to the piano.
Unfortunately, my friend’s aunt ditched Reznor and eventually settled for The Clark’s drummer Dave Minarik, which means I’ll never get to ask the man behind the curtain why the first nine songs of Ghosts I-IV lack clarity and conclusiveness. My guess, however, is that much like a single episode of Lost, you can’t see the whole picture until the story is complete, so if you want to find out how this mystery of an album ends, spend the extra five bucks and download the whole thing on the band’s website. I wouldn't doubt the album will make a lot more sense.