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Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks

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The creative output of Trent Reznor, the founder and frontman of Nine Inch Nails, does not need to be introduced to any fans of industrial music. Nevertheless, the latest release Hesitation Marks brings some surprises... The winner of Oscar for the soundtrack to Social Network could rest on his laurels because there are not many artists who can threaten his position. Is there any risk? Let’s see.
The first thing to mention is the cohesion with the previous material – atmosphere, message, a lot of synth layers... Precisely the stuff we know and like, no surprises. Plus characteristic vocal of Reznor, who is widely recognised and constitutes the quality himself, we get another portion of genius closed in 14 tracks. And the keynote of this album seems to be the question: And why not?

What is missing? Live music. Not alive in terms of energy, but in terms of natural, acoustic instruments, just like with Fragile from 1999 where the string section was used. Without these unique intertwined synth and natural melodic lines Reznor is dangerously moving into the side of thousands other projects for most of which so far he has been the exemplar. Evolution does not work backward Mr. Reznor. But let the tracks speak for themselves, perhaps it wasn’t that much necessary to use living instruments this time?

The first track, The Eater of Dreams, it’s clear.... I’d love to say, instrumental. Somehow it is – we may treat thousands of buttons as an instrument, a few forks on a plate as well... some melodious and rhythmical layers apparently placed upon each other accidentally create chaotic mix which stops suddenly. They seem almost as senseless as the previous sentence, however, this type of procedures seem characteristic for Nine Inch Nails.
Second composition, Copy of A, is quite similar – after few sounds suddenly a bit appears which seems to be maladjusted. Again it is done on purpose.. what’s more, you can experience seven different layers in this track, which are so skilfully joined that it is hardly possible to distinguish them. When we add clear voice of Reznor, good lyrics and not very complicated  vocal melody we get the quintessence of NIN, What is missing is the compatibility of lyrics to music – melody is joyful, lyrics not necessarily.
Came Back Haunted is completely different – It seems much more emotional, even monumental, much more resembling NIN as we know it. The brave ones may be even tempted to dance... As the children of the alternative can.
The fourth one, Find My Way, it’s far from dancing atmosphere, the melody not much diversified, good lyrics and background. In terms of layers there is a lot to listen, good track to spend a few spare moments with closed eyes.... Apart from piano sounds and bits the form is more like wide colourful planes from dark ambient.
The beginnig of All Time Low resembles classic experiments from the beginning of the 90’s, and then suddenly… exactly. Suddenly. The total change of the atmosphere, a lot of pungency – in lyrics, music, atmosphere – who can forbid Reznor to do it? Unclear harmony, multilayered effects... a lot of stuff. Still there is no effect of flamboyance, which is good. And characteristic for NIN.
Than we’ve got Dissapointed. Light and pleasurable composition, though effects used in vocal and its emotionality remind what the song is about. Nevertheless, the rhythm resembling clapping surely make the audience gathered in front of the stage react in a certain way. Well, he wanted it, he has it. Hopefully he will not be disappointed.
Everything starts with bit and guitar which dangerously resembles American punk, and as we know – either American or punk. Later more complicated layers appear and "Offspring effect" disappears, though through the whole song there is an impression that the composition is more like Franz Ferdinand than Trent Reznor. And again the conclusion – who forbids him? He is Trent Reznor. It’s hard to mistake the sound of vocal, although the music quality of this track is disputable taking into consideration his previous creative output.
Fortunately Satelite brings back the essence. At leat at the beginning… It’s amazing how Reznor play with genres, styles and atmosphere. The first listening to vocals brings to mind the conclusion: Wow! Michael Jackson is alive! Seriously, it sounds like Billie Jean or Black and White. After a while we notice that it is done on purpose... As usual. Unbelievable, sometimes even dangerous eclecticism.
Various Methods of Escape makes reference to the atmosphere and structure of Find My Way – calm and simultaneously introducing anxiety, emotional but not impudent. Amazingly wide range used in vocals. What’s more here comes the impression of live instruments. One of the layers sounds like xylophone, another one like double bass pizzicato (played with fingers instead of fiddlestick). The sounds are too shy, to be sure, but whether it is true or not – well done.
Running – chaotic, full of anxiety, stabilized by wide sounds. A lot of strange things happening here until two firm repetitive guitar sounds are introduced. Quintessence of NIN in NIN. I Would For You is completely different – slow, low sounds, consistent beat, hypnotizing vocal, from time to time high notes and unexpected daring chorus with dense layers and sounds. Suddenly he completely breaks the music, there’s a pause and then he plays again – it makes amazing impression during the concerts.
In Two – classic, dark, distressing, unless the vocal is introduced and changes the conception into violence, even aggression. Digitally processed vocal in the first part of the chorus suits this industrial classic perfectly, second part resembles the leitmotif of "Friends" – a TV series popular in the 90’s... It blows up your brain. The genius of Reznor is obvious.
While I’m Still Here… again, dry beat and simple voice of the vocalist slowly followed by successive electro layers. One, simple, not very much diversified, ambient sound. Natural guitar and probably synthetic saxophone. Calmness. Unnoticeable passage to Black Noise. Noise – yes, initially not that much Black. It grows. It’s darker and darker, but still calm.
The end.

In the history of music there is a presumption that the immortal composer is the one who includes in his works this specific, magical something, which makes him unmistakable. Usually it was harmonic procedure. Currently it is thought that since music evolved from the phase of departure from harmony and form, everything has been created, played and described. So there is a need to manipulate the atmosphere, favourite effects, syncretism (or lack of it) word-music.

Trent Reznor has mastered this art perfectly. Hesitation Marks is a worthy proof of this.


01. The Eater of Dreams
02. Copy of A
03. Came Back Haunted
04. Find My Way
05. All Time Low
06. Dissapointed
07. Everything
08. Satelite
09. Various Methods of Escape
10. Running
11. I Would For You
12. In Two
13. While I'm Still Here
14. Black Noise
Translator: morrigan
Add date: 2014-02-19 / Music reviews

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