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Album Review
Ghosts I - IV

Ghosts I - IV
by Nine Inch Nails


Review Date
25th May 2008
Reviewed by

Ghosts 1-IV (also known as Halo 26) by Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor’s first foray into the world of the legal 100% free download. Unleashed from the restraints of Interscope Records he is now free to give away his music to the masses. Fans can download the first nine tracks for free, then the rest of Ghosts at a minimal cost. It's available on the major bit torrent sites and the NIN website (also offering add-ons like the physical version shipped to you, vinyl, fancy booklets filled with moody shots and a chance to remix Ghosts for yourself.)

Ghosts is instrumental which may have come as a shock to many hardcore fans, but as one myself, it didn’t take long to immerse myself in the 2 hours (36 tracks spilt in to 4 ‘moods’) of the sprawling journey that Ghosts takes you on. Each track is two to six minutes long & just melds together organically. The usual suspects, Atticus Ross, Alan Moulder, Alessandro Cortini and Adrian Belew, were holed up to spend an intense ten weeks composing and recording Ghosts. As Reznor explains on the NIN website: "The rules were as follows: 10 weeks, no clear agenda, no over-thinking, everything driven by impulse. Whatever happens during that time gets released as... something."

Ghosts1-9 is drenched in eerie piano, experimenting with sounds, textures, mood and visuals, it manages to be ambient and heavy at the same time, if that is possible! The mood starts off light, then adding buzzing, drum loops, intense distortion and even some Middle Eastern melodies get a look in. Gentle guitar strumming interlaced with heavy distortion; this is engrossing stuff that could be a movie-soundtrack laden with atmosphere, thoughts, inspirations and Reznor just letting go and not being so uptight. Towards the end of Ghosts 1-9 I am taken back to Downward Spiral days, which is a bittersweet trip down memory lane.

10-19 just dives right in to classic cockrock NIN. Industrial, grinding, clanging, I want Reznor’s voice to start any second…but it doesn’t, piano does. The pace slows then peaks again when you least expect it with marching, pounding drums, a faint background of classical peeking through from the chaos, all while maintaining beautiful melodies. I feel like I’m lying on a beach, looking up at the sky and just breathing while listening to track 13. Track 15 is definitely worth a mention for its sheer weirdness! Samples of doors slamming, a baby crying, crowds cheering, it is quite eccentric and spooky in an Aphex Twin/horror film sort of way. Ghosts 10-19 finishes off with bouncy, clean almost cheesy synth and a grinding beat that is industrial to the max.

Ghosts 20-29 starts with heavily distorted buzzing that gets right into bones and takes us into the next musical soundscape, Nine Inch Nails do what they do best, disturbing and emotional music for teenage boys! It will surprise you once again as guitars and piano fade in to bring all the parts of this track perfectly together and turn it into a fucking amazing (and my favourite) track 20. Lightening up again with chiming, squelching bass, computer bleeps and various percussion sounds, Ghosts seems to be heavily focussed on piano and distortion, this section particularly being one big distortion-fest. Many of the tracks on 20-29 are a difficult & disturbing listen, layered distortion & feedback can be quite unsettling! Turning another corner NIN goes all funky, with very 80’s Depeche Mode-style synths and cheesy vocal/scream samples, I can imagine this being a big Goth dance floor hit! Track 28 slows down the pace with a lone guitar in a song that sends a shiver down my spine…

Finally Ghosts 30-36!! Track 30 is pretty experimental, sounding like a monster groaning and slamming a door (over & over & over again!) with a bit of Asian percussion thrown in there for good measure. Reznor starts reminiscing his Downward Spiral days again with disturbing sounds that conjure up disturbing visuals; there really is abit too much distortion on this final part of Ghosts for my liking. Ghosts is a masterpiece that will satisfy NIN fans long & hard…it’s also an emotionally-draining recording that could be detrimental to your particular frame of mind. A combination of the heaviest & the most fragile sounds and moods makes Ghosts a journey that’s well worth taking.

Review by Mix it Up

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