Monday, March 10, 2008

NIN's Ghosts I, Wherein We Actually Discuss the Music...

So we've had some people (and when I say "some people," I mean JR) acridly observing that the new NIN album has not provoked much discussion. Well, I'm not ashamed to say that this new album does actually require some absorption before discussion, and um, well, it's all instrumental. I'm not really good at writing florid prose about the sublime places where transcendant music transports me, so if there's a lack of trenchant analysis and emotional outpouring, then blame me, not the music. As I would point out to our Anonymous WTC fan, I'm not Dierdre Keating.

But there are things to be said about this album, both complimentary and critical, so I think what Iris and I will do is write down what goes through our minds as we listen to Ghosts I-IV. After all, this is music for daydreaming and getting lost in your chain of thoughts. So, taking a break from my demanding workload and sneaking on my headphones at the office, here I go with the first installment:

1 Ghosts I--sounds like it could have been on "Still." Mostly just Trent and his piano, haunting and sad. If I could transport my novel from my head onto the page and then adapt it for the screen, this would so be the soundtrack. And what I love most about this album is that it makes me want to write my novel--it's saying to me, here is some art that I've made with my go make some too!

Hm, for a second, the music transported me to the dentist's office with a drill-like sound.

2 Ghosts I--omg, this is a long intro. I took a moment to IM Iris rather than capture my stream-of-consciousness thoughts. But never's the piano. Beautiful and bittersweet; echoing and distant.

3 Ghosts I--The pace picks up with this one. Trent's been listening to some world music lately, I think. It's very modern but indigenous-sounding nevertheless. Hints of South America and Australia, I think. At one point, I thought I heard Trent's bee/wasp sounds from Downward Spiral. A moment of Middle Eastern influence? And yes, I'm talking out of my ass about the global influences, but this almost doesn't feel like Trent Reznor or NIN. I'm really enjoying it, though. Even though it doesn't have a melody that catches in my head, it's pure enjoyment to hear.

4 Ghosts I--Starts off okay, gets kind of annoying for a moment, then improves with the drum part. More dischordant than other tracks...who let Jack White into the room? Uhhhh...not much to say about this one. It's not transporting me to distant lands or anything.

5 Ghosts I--I feel like I'm in the hospital, while starring in a David Lynch movie. There are definite shades of the Lost Highway soundtrack here, no? The piano part kind of echoes Track 2. Or Track 1, I can't remember right now. This sucking sound, it feels like I'm trapped inside some kind of hazardous materials suit or am behind Darth Vader's mask. Also, this music has turned kind of James Bond-ish.

6 Ghosts I--Oh fuck, it's this one. This one threatens to get stuck in my head and not in a good way. I mean, nice use of xylophone or whatever, but this one is pretty monotonous. I am tapping my fingers waiting to get to the next track. I'm sure this is of a similar length as the others, but it feels soooo long. Doo DOO doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo doo...

7 Ghosts I--Now, this is what I'm talking about! Funky, harder, sexier. Add in that guitar part...very sexy. It reminds me of "Closer" inasmuch as the air is filled with sounds that wouldn't by themselves sound remotely musical, yet I want to either dance or fuck to this. Since I am in the office, however, I will currently do neither.

8 Ghosts I--I feel like this track is very Year Zero or Niggy Tardust. Year Zero, especially. I hear shades of "Survivalism," definitely. I want to say more about this one, but uhhhhhhhh...I mean, writing about these songs is kind of like writing about wine. An industrial nose, goes down '70s hard rock, with a light, fruity finish.

9 Ghosts I--Back to the piano...reminiscent again of the Still tracks or "Zero Sum." A good song, doesn't overstay its welcome. Something about it reminds me of sitting in the house on a summer afternoon with nothing to do and looking through a window watching it rain, then seeing the sun come out, and watching it rain again.

And that, folks, is my take on the first installment of Ghosts I-IV. Stay tuned for Iris's thoughts, opinions, complaints, and gushing praise! In the meantime, add your own thoughts about any of the tracks or, you know, carry on with business as usual:


JR said...

You know, like, any time you're ready. Don't be shy. Just jump on in. Water's fine. We won't bite (well, maybe anonymous will). Really, all comments welcome [even mine].

Anyway, WTF, all instrumental?

Sounds like someone's revving up for that piano tour. Yikes.

Honestly, I'm so much a fan of the things that I like that Trent did that I'm afraid I won't like this, so I'm resisting. And the all instrumental angle isn't doing anything to draw me in.

Serious questions: how similar are all of the songs? Any sort of common thread? Does it feel repetitive at all? Does it feel like it's been fully thought through or sorta slapped together (I ask only because we're all surprised at how soon it came out, and with no fanfare, at that).

Also, that's a really sexy picture of BC. Day-um.


Lavender said...

I'm so sorry friends,
Lately, I have been working like 80hours a week and haven't had the chance to listen to the new release, let alone purchase or download it- or do other important life activities.
I will be checking in soon (I hope)

maise said...

I don't feel that the songs are too similar, but one might perceive it having a "slapped together" quality, given the fact that the transitions are really abrupt. I don't think there are any running themes (not that I've detected anyway). But on the other hand, it's neither dull nor monotonous. Each song does have a distinct personality...some are louder, some are softer, some are more noisy and dischordant, some are gentler, some are energetic, some are somber, etc.

Nothing so far sounds as epic as "Just Like You Imagined," but I think it's a worthwhile purchase anyway. I mean, Christ, you can buy 36 tracks for five freaking dollars. If you liked the instrumental tracks on "Still," I think you will dig this. If you prefer the screamy vocals, you probably won't.

And that's the honest shit.

JR said...

What? Did someone say screamy vocals?

Iris said...

Some of this might be repeated when I do the Ghosts II writeup, which I'm hoping to get done in the next day or so, but this album is great and worth purchasing. JR, you might be leery of the all instrumental aspect of it but there is such a wide variety of songs. Just look at what Maise has covered so far and how it kind of jumps all over. If there's any "theme" here it's that the album is just sporadic mix but there's always the option to create your own playlist in iTunes to whatever order you like.

There are several I don't care for as much as others (which will make it an easy target for mockery) but I think with the sheer number of songs included on this release you'd still be able to find several that suit you. Maise summed it up nicely with the reference to "Still" vs Screamy.

D:ANGEL said...

I haven't heard but 30 second samples but I could totally see how NIN fans would like this. It's not bad at all and even without vocals it is unmistakeably NIN. I would bet if you threw it on for any NIN fan they would know it was T all the way.

On a side review note I got (via an online distro place because, you know, who else carries obscure czech repulic death metal) the CD ELVENEFRIS by the band LYKATHEA AFLAME and Holy SHIT this is some insane technical death metal. What is wierd is it has this new age-y vibe to it and some of the riffs are in Major sounding scales so it actually makes you feel positive when listening. Really awesome. I heard about it from a bunch of dudes who listed it in their "top 10" death metal lists and so I had to get. Someone threw up a few tunes on myspace and I was sold... although finding ANYPLACE to get this cd was next to impossible. Anyway any one in for roaring brutal death metal that transitions into new age beauty and back - I definitely say get it. Oh and the drummer is out of control. It's like listening to a drum machine set to go as difficult and fast as possible. Amazing.

D:ANGEL said...

oh and we've talked about Gallagher and Cosby.


Yakov Smirnoff

you know:

"In Russia, NIN CDs buy you!"

80s comedy. Never goes out of style.

Iris said...

Yakov Smirnoff sounds like a failed flavor for Smirnoff Ice.

D:ANGEL said...

It actually sounds like a euphimism for Soviet masturbation.

JR said...

It isn't?

JR said...

Is everyone commenting on this record instrumentally? Is that why it's so quiet around here?

Iris said...

No, JR. Everyone else is out listening to the album and off daydreaming. Honestly I'm a little jealous.

Zeemort said...

I don't even have the album yet!

I won't be able to until wednesday/thursday at least. And that's driving me fucking MAD. :I

Iris said...

Alright it's high time I get my ass in gear and post my impressions of this first set of songs.

#1. I know Trent said this whole album was a result of random project with a 10 week deadline but this first song has to be a leftover from "Still". The whole ambient piano melody picks right up where "Leaving Hope" left off. Even the bit of artificial drone sounds similar to the feedback in "Leaving Hope". But having said that they are not complete copies of each other; similar but #1 still holds up on its own as new melancholy goodness. How does Trent make it feel so good to feel so sad. Love it!

#2. See answers for #1. Although the the pace of this one has a tendency to get on my nerves because it's so. slow. It'd be great for just laying on the floor with headphones but I don't often find myself in that situation.

#3. I kinda agree with Maise on the international influence but then again the bass line sounds like a slightly modernized version of the piano melody used in "The Becoming" from "The Downward Spiral". You have to really listen for it but if you play them back to back I think it's there. (Yeah apparently I have that much time on my hands.) I also agree with Maise that Trent's music transfers well to movies. I can totally visualize this track being used in a montage during a hacker's attempt to break into the DoD database or something.

#4. Do. Not. Like. Or at least do not like in this order. I'm all chilled out from #3 and then there's this random batch of noise that just doesn't cut it. But it does slide into #5 nicely.

#5. Where Maise is getting hazardous space suit breathing, I'm getting guy sharpening his switchblade on a leather strap. There's something twangy about the piano in this one that makes me think of spaghetti westerns but with more deranged characters. It would go nicely with Stephen King's book "Desperation".

#6. Please make the xylophone stop.

#7. Can't pinpoint the why but I love this one. Yeah, I think it's the assortment of noise. It just works. Fantastic!

#8. "Deep" meets "Survivalism" buzz. Seriously LOVE it. You know that perfect moment in the AATCHB concert DVD during "Just Like You Imagined" where Trent and Robin Finck are just jamming and bouncing to it...yeah...this song captures that moment too. You can't help but just nod your head along with it. If I had to pick a song that I'd want to fuck to, this would be the one.

#9. One of my top two favorite tracks. Maise nailed it with her description (no pun intended). Just so damned relaxing. -sigh-

I compared this album to a lot of the NIN catalog but merely as reference points. I don't really think this album is just a rehash of what Trent's done before but it definitely has the components of the "NIN sound". It's new but comfortable if that makes sense.

For those of you who haven't downloaded it yet, because you're poor or because you're stubborn (you two know who you are), you can check out the whole thing on our YouTube playlist where another fan has uploaded videos with various stills from Ghosts.

JR said...

Why does everyone call Danny stubborn?

JR said...

OMG, this post is going nowhere.

It's so frustrating to keep checking in to see all the compelling reasons that I should shell out five of my hard, non-profit-earned bucks, but nothing. Just some talk about how tinkly everything sounds, and how it sounds like everything else La Rez has done.

You're a really shitty promotional tool, guys.

Meanwhile, if people want to talk about AWESOME, AWE-INSPIRING music, and listen to it for FREE (that's right: not one red cent), bop on over here. Click on Stuff I Like - Eric Gaffney Edition, then sit back and prepare to have your mind blown.

But if you want to not talk about how not great the new NIN is, you know, feel free. This isn't my blog.

(This is. And it's about to get another dose of Gaffney, so...)

JR said...

Oh, shit. Wait a minute.

I should have said, "Bop on over here and get Gaffed."

That would have been a lot better.


JR said...

And you're welcome for getting this post up to 18 comments, guys.

JR said...


D:ANGEL said...

Any time you want a guest post about the 30 metal albums you must own to truly understand the genre, let me know.

JR said...

Danny, I think we should do a co-podcast at some point. Seriously.

D:ANGEL said...

I'm down - I have recording stuff at my place too.

JR said...

That would be pretty awesome. Shoot me an email and we can get the ball rolling.

Places What? Sorry, I was too busy listening to the DA/JR podcast!

Get used to hearing a lot of that, ladies.

D:ANGEL said...

DA 'n JR - spell it out


JR said...

Oh, snap.

The Most DAnJeRous Podcast On The Internet.

It's like it's been waiting to happen.

maise said...

Oh keep your panties on, DANJR...there's more discussion to come. Some of us actually have to work at the office these days.

Iris said...

See JR bitch. Bitch, JR,bitch.

What exactly are you looking for here? There are like 5 regular commenters here; two of whom have bought the album, three of whom have not. Maise and I have listed opinions, listed links with full listening options, and encouraged people to buy it but at the end of the day it's an instrumental album and of course not everyone's cup 'o tea. It's not ground-breakingly new stuff. Trent's not trying to reshape the music industry with these songs (reshaping distribution methods, yeah). Bottom line is that it was a tinkering project aimed at letting whatever come out, come out. I'm impressed with it and it's nice to know that Trent is in a position that if he wants to do a project of this nature he's got the means to do so.

Is it the best or strongest thing that he's ever made? No. But it wasn't meant to be. It was meant to inspire and entertain daydreams. Are you wanting us to write your own daydreams for you?

I guess what I'm trying to say here, dear JR, is either buy the fucking thing already or shut the fuck up.

Now I'm off to re-listen to Ghosts and find my happy place.

D:ANGEL said...

"Some of us actually have to work at the office these days."


We all work. I'm not writing war and peace when I post and you weren't so busy you couldn't read and post.

JR said...

Does that mean you stop working when you leave the office, Maise?


I never stop working. Thanks to my laptop, even when I had walking pneumonia AND bronchitis--simultaneously!--I was still takin' care of business.

Quit whinin'.

I'm the hardest working woman in (non-profit) show biz.

maise said...

Well, actually, Senora Self-Righteous, it means that when I leave the office I run off to my *second* job, where I have no internet access, then I come home and finish up the work I couldn't get to from my first job.

BUT WHO GIVES A SHIT? Big Announcement from the Big Giant Head for all you budding filmmakers!

First of all, a sincere THANK YOU for the response to Ghosts. We are all amazed at the reaction for what we assumed would be a quiet curiosity in the NIN catalog. My faith in all of you has been restored - let's all go have coffee somewhere (my treat)!

Today we announce the expansion of the Ghosts project into the visual world. This record began as an experiment with us using sound as a means to describe visuals. Early in the project we thought it would be interesting to see what the community could create / collaborate on as a reaction to the music we were making. We wanted to keep the canvas as blank as possible for you, hence the lack of descriptive song titles and the primarily textural artwork and packaging.
So here's the plan: we've teamed up with YouTube to host a "film festival" around Ghosts. The concept is for you to take whatever tracks you feel inspired by from Ghosts and create what you feel should accompany them visually. You will be able to see all of the submissions, and a team of us (including me) will be sorting through them and setting aside ones we feel are exceptional. Eventually (within a couple of months?) we will present a virtual "film festival" with me and some special guests presenting selections of your work.
This isn't a contest and you don't win elaborate prizes - it's meant to be an experiment in collaboration and a chance for us to interact beyond the typical one-way artist-to-fan relationship. We've discussed some interesting ways this could go, including multiple installments of the online "film festivals," to broadcast TV specials, to a one-time live performance of the entire Ghosts record with your visuals involved. It really depends on how this progresses and develops.
We are all very much looking forward to what you come up with, and hope you enjoy the experience. Visit our YouTube channel later today for information on how to participate.
posted by Trent Reznor at 10:42 AM pst, from los angeles.

JR said...


Too bad it took TR to explain this: "an experiment with us using sound as a means to describe visuals", but no matter, it's still intriguing.

It definitely sounds akin to Year Zero, in the multi-faceted-ness of it; let's hope it doesn't fizzle out halfway through, as YZ did.

Iris said...


I give up.