A mere two months after unexpectedly unleashing the murky instrumental collection Ghosts I-IV, Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor one-ups even himself by releasing a new studio album, The Slip, via nin.com — for free. This quiet appearance stands in direct contrast with the promotional hubbub surrounding NIN's last proper label release, 2007's Year Zero, an album whose backstory encompassed fake Internet conspiracies and websites, alien invasions, leaked tracks, and an intricate lyrical arc lambasting the U.S. government.
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In line with its stealth release, The Slip is far simpler; its lyrics address anger, confusion, frustration, and defiance in flashbulb bursts of emotion. The album is also more sonically straightforward, forgoing Zero's urban-decay industrial onslaught for the nuanced synth-pop of With Teeth and The Fragile's funereal instrumentals and heartbeat percussion. Somber, slow piano drowns out Reznor's barely perceptible murmurs on "Lights in the Sky," while the dull roars and eerie space of "Corona Radiata" resemble Brian Eno's ambient works, and white-noise distortion and jack-hammering drum 'n' bass beats drive "Letting You." Best is the coy, gothic New Wave seduction "Discipline," with a sinewy melody, pulsating hi-hat, and lyrics such as "I need your discipline/You know once I start I cannot help myself," which illustrate Reznor's classic intermingling of sex and violence, restraint and passion.