|Nine Inch Nails - The Slip|
|Music Download Reviews Rock|
|Written by K L Poore|
|Sunday, 01 June 2008|
Except for a few record companies in the ‘80s who’d actually ply you with crapola to listen to their incredibly lame artists, you can’t find a better deal.
Now, to hit all the clichés up front: “there’s no free lunch” (actually I think there are, but sometimes you have to buy a beer), “just because it’s a bargain doesn’t mean it’s worth anything” (but it doesn’t mean it’s not, either) and “you get what you pay for” (no, actually you get what you can carry away… whether you pay for it or not is another matter).
That was just to get the whole financial aspect of Nine Inch Nails latest, The Slip, out of the way because debating Trent Reznor’s motives for releasing it in this manner means very little. He’s done it, it’s out for everyone to experience, and that’s it.
What I can say is, if you’re a fan of NIN’s mix of dark emotions and intense electronics, you’ll love The Slip. If you don’t, you probably bailed long before I’ve typed this line, which is a shame because The Slip would be a perfect introduction into Reznor’s world.
NIN hasn’t shortchanged their listeners with The Slip. It rocks in its own way, it’s moody to the edge of alienation, and the production is crisp and everything you’d desire. From “1,000,000” (the distance in miles Reznor feels from his own existence) to the closer “Demon Seed,” he fills this release with the musical and lyrical flourishes you’d expect while changing them up enough so that it doesn’t sound like he’s giving away stuff he’s recycled . There’s not a bad cut on The Slip and there’s no filler, except maybe the 1:25 introduction “999,999,” which leads into “1,000,000,” get it?
My favorite tracks are “Discipline,” where the protagonist shows a decided lack of discipline by coming in too soon on one of the verses, “Echoplex” with its dreamy guitar line and whispered coda, and “The Four of Us are Dying,” which reminds me of Brian Eno’s ambient music, but way better.
I believe that beyond the obvious merits of its music, and the immediacy of an artist completing something and getting it into the hands of the public quickly and easily, the release of The Slip as a “free download” from the NIN site (www.nin.com) also raises an interesting point for discussion.
Will a future filled with “downloads only” result in artists putting out massive amounts of product? As imperfect as the LP/tape/CD system is, and was, it did place a baffle on the volume of recorded music that could be shared. And, with the built-in time constraints of the medium as well. I’m not saying it’s good, or that anyone with a musical vision shouldn’t be able to get their recordings out into the public, I’m just wondering what will happen when everything is available to everyone all the time. Personally I’m looking forward to it, but with a very minor caveat.
Given the full blown danger zone “I’m a golden God” egos of some artists, and the never ending, ever deepening greed of the music industry, I see a distinct possibility that the public will be bombarded by multiple daily releases by some semi-talented flavor of the day, and distracted away from meaningful and potentially important music. I can envision a not-too-distant future when a mega-music monolith releases “Mariah Farts After Lunch” and promotes it until all the kids believe it’s what is happening. Or some super-self-important gas bag (think Bono but with less ego) will put out hours upon hours of him learning how to play bag pipes while kicking a cat and yodeling “Danny Boy.” The truth is we’ll have to take the excess along with the access, but the world needs to be warned. The glut is out there! Luckily, with The Slip Trent Reznor has shown an infinite amount of taste, restraint and maturity as an artist.
“Corona Radiata” goes from being an interesting soundscape to a trip through the heavens. The grand piano on “Lights in the Sky” is woody, deep and resonant, and you feel as if you’re laying beneath it listening to Reznor play a song for the first time. The buzz of “Head Down” smacks your nervous system like Keith Richard’s guitar solo on “Sympathy for the Devil.”
And, reconsidering, maybe it’s wrong to merely think of The Slip as being “free,” because labeling it as such diminishes everything that is great about it. Perhaps it’s better to look at it as a gift from a talented artist who appreciates his audience. “Thank you,” Trent Reznor writes on the NIN home page, “for your continued and loyal support over the years -- this one's on me.” And for us all. Go get it.
One of the most wonderful aspects of NIN’s generosity in giving people free access to The Slip is the bonus of being allowed to download different versions of the release. It’s available in MP3, higher quality M4A Lossless or FLAC files (via a bit torrent program), or in a 24/96 WAVE audiophile version, and the differences between the MP3 and higher quality versions are amazing. I downloaded The Slip from the NIN website, twice, once in MP3 format @ 216 kbps(vbr), 44.1 kHz, and then again using Bit Torrent software @ 519 kbps, 44.1 kHz. It’s a clear example of what a better format will do for sound. Whereas with some releases the differentiation between various downloads is minimal (all you audiophiles can trash me at avrevforum.com if you so desire), the extremes between these two versions was easily evident. I was stunned by how full and immediate each song sounds. I recommend you get some freeware, download one of the higher bit rate versions, and enjoy.
I burned a copy and gave it the old car test and it sounded really really good. It caused me to drive a little too fast and drift off into “the twilight realms of my own secret thoughts” (thanks FZ) a couple of times so I’d recommend you listen to it at home, not steering a ton of moving metal. With the lights out. On headphones. That’s where I got the full impact.
The download includes a pdf booklet with all the relevant information and an interesting graphic for each song. Funny how NIN can gift this wonderful music to its fans and be savvy enough to include information and things to looks at, whereas a majority of the artists selling on iTunes, Amazon or other download sites can’t be bothered to supply something as rudimentary as liner notes. Dorks.