Nine Inch Nails, “Not the Actual Events” (Null Corporation)
“Feels like I’ve been here before,” Trent Reznor sings on the new EP by Nine Inch Nails, and that’s probably because he has.
Released last Friday, just a week after Reznor revealed he had made it, “Not the Actual Events” represents the latest in a series of comebacks for this influential industrial-rock band, which has spent the past decade shuttling between active duty and cold storage.
The five-song set also marks a return, following 2013’s controlled “Hesitation Marks,” to the bleak, pummeling sound that drove Nine Inch Nails to stardom in the early 1990s.
On “Hesitation Marks,” which itself spurred Reznor to revive Nine Inch Nails as a touring act after earlier swearing off the road, he concentrated on gleaming textures and relatively luscious grooves. But “Not the Actual Events” opens with “Branches/Bones,” a brief blast of fuzzed-out guitars overlaid with sinister words about “spiders crawling everywhere” and “pieces with the opening sewed shut.” In “Burning Bright (Field on Fire),” the guitars get bigger and more serrated, ultimately cresting in a wave that drowns out Reznor’s voice.
The music is still carefully constructed. Reznor recorded “Not the Actual Events” with Atticus Ross, his partner in the high-profile film score work he started doing during one of Nine Inch Nails’ breaks. Together they won an Oscar in 2011 for “The Social Network” and scored other movies, including this month’s “Patriots Day.”
Here you can sense their attention to detail in “Dear World,” with a machine-tooled drum track that keeps shifting to emphasize unexpected beats, and “She’s Gone Away,” which features Mariqueen Maandig, Reznor’s wife, singing in ghostly harmony with him.
The EP’s impact is blunt, as the band itself was quick to proclaim in a statement announcing its release. “It’s an unfriendly, fairly impenetrable record that we needed to make,” Reznor said.
For “The Idea of You,” Reznor recruited Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters (who handled drums on Nine Inch Nails’ 2005 album, “With Teeth”), and his muscular playing gives the song a punky intensity as the singer seems to shake off a vivid nightmare: “None of this is happening.” (Another guest, Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, appears on “Burning Bright.”)
Why the reunion with noise and fury? It might be Reznor’s way of waking up a society in which “everyone seems to be asleep,” as he sings in “Dear World.” Or perhaps working in Hollywood just built up steam he needs to blow off. “Oh, my God, I have missed you,” he sings in “Burning Bright” with the frazzled emotion of a man who’s sat through too many meetings with too many executives. “It has been so long.”
MIKAEl Wood, Los Angeles Times
Various artists, “Waxing the Gospel: Mass Evangelism and the Phonograph, 1890-1900” (Archeophone)
This is a three-disc set of 102 gramophone and wax-cylinder recordings from the 1890s, many newly discovered. With a 408-page hardcover book of liner notes, it is an otherworldly glimpse into the history of recording and into fin de siècle American voices, mostly male, mostly white, singing vibrant Protestant hymns and reciting prayers.
The first CD collects commercial releases, beginning with a reading of the Lord’s Prayer by Emile Berliner, who invented the gramophone, and including the earliest known recording of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (1894).
The second CD focuses on famous evangelist Ira D. Sankey. The third and most fascinating disc collects amateur and home recordings, including 18 from a Methodist camp meeting in Ocean Grove, N.J., in 1897. This CD includes the only known recording of Fanny Crosby, writer of more than 8,000 hymns.
STEVE KLINGE, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Brian Eno, “Reflection”