Open source Ghosts – the new NIN

Who’s heard it? What do you think, and why?

I rejoice at the fact that I can turn to my dog from the easel, genuinely say “Man, this is good” and be talking about Nine Inch Nails. It’s been too long. Ghosts I – IV is the album I wished for the entire time I suffered through Year Zero. Here Trent abandons vocals almost entirely and weaves a new sand-swept terrain of noise and atmosphere without deserting the industrial beats we hold so dear. I wouldn’t call it entirely different – it’s more like the subtle details dispersed through NIN’s other music, amplified, developed, mature. The accompanying photography by Phillip Graybill and Rob Sheridan is an elegant and seductive supplement to the sound.

The distribution method will keep fans and non-fans alike talking for some time. Namely, the $75 Deluxe Edition containing “Ghosts I-IV in a hardcover fabric slipcase containing: 2 audio CDs, 1 data DVD with all 36 tracks in multi-track format, and a Blu-ray disc with Ghosts I-IV in high-definition 96/24 stereo and accompanying slide show”. Under a Creative Commons license. This means access to every component of the music, for the general public to share, sample, remix and distribute, legally. Beyond the marketing brilliance it is indeed a revolutionary move that pushes copyright boundaries and adds an open source angle rarely seen in this, often individualistic, scene. Ghosts isn’t NIN’s first foray into this realm – With Teeth was streamed in entirety on the band’s MySpace page, and lossless multi-track audio files of 3 songs from Year Zero were made available for download on the band’s website.

23 Responses to “Open source Ghosts – the new NIN”

  1. DJ Velveteen Says:

    Hellz yes. I’ve been appreciating this immensely for a day or so. Though I disagree regarding Year Zero; I was, in fact, stoked to hear that Trent Reznor found something to be pissed off about again.

  2. the daniel Says:

    I’m thinking of grabbing the DVD with the multitrack files and releasing a remix or two, that’s for sure. I think that the legacy of this album will not be the music – it’s good, but i think the real impact will be the countless electronic tracks we hear over the next ten years that use chopped up snippets or even whole-cloth samples from the cheap, hi-res, and legal sample dvd. I won’t go so far as to say anything so pompous as ‘this will subtly affect the tone of electronic music for years to come’ but I bet we hear bits and pieces of Ghosts in everything from reggaeton to country and western over the next few years.

  3. Shay Says:

    I thought GHOSTS I-IV was an amazing listen. So much more mature (and honest, IMO) than Year Zero. I’ve been waiting for a release like this from Reznor for a while now.
    Not that I don’t enjoy the occasional excursion into angsty industrial-pop (as I’m sure Reznor does himself), but, as I’ve said elsewhere, I think it’s about time he took The Clint Mansell Serious Business plunge into adulthood.

  4. Vespers Says:

    I like it. It’s really good to listen to all in a row, methinks. Not that it flows that well, but it does work as.. well, both as an album of sorts and as four smaller pieces. The individual Ghosts I to IV especially really work best when listened to as a whole rather than individual tracks.

    And the CC license makes me happy. Especially, as you say, that the multi-track tracks are free to be played with and shared legally. It’s awesome.

  5. Tequila Says:

    Since The Fragile I haven’t been the biggest NIN fan. Not because I didn’t like the direction Trent went but because everything felt so unfinished. It was like looking through an artists sketchbook…great fun with many a surprise but nowhere near the level of a completed work.

    With Ghosts I – IV you don’t have to get too deep in to see something has really clicked. Whatever the last three albums started has finally been achieved. They don’t re-invent anything but they sure do polish and breathe life back into a stale genre. While it keeps a lot of his industrial roots one hears quite a bit of what normally gets labeled as “World Music” in some of the arrangements and soundscapes. You can already hear the remixes and possible vocals to accompany come tracks by amateur and pro artists alike.

    It’s an atmospheric piece of work with some unexpected moments and extras…beautiful photography, great web icons, and even wallpaper that remembers the widescreen users among us.

    The distribution model is fantastic…it appeals to all the fans…and shows some real effort in understanding the world of online distribution.

    Music wise this really is the first major surprise of 2008.

    Now all we need is a good David Lynch film built around it…

  6. Lauren Says:

    Let us not fail to mention that the incredible, the talented, the marvelous Brian Viglione of Dresden Dolls fame is drumming on tracks 19 and 22.

    SO proud of him, I must say. :)

  7. Daniel Yokomizo Says:

    I heard, it’s a good album but not a great one like Pretty Hate Machine or Downward Spiral. Nowadays I’m listening more noise/old industrial (Merzbow, SPK, Throbbing Gristle) and Ghosts goes in this direction but not enough (for me). It feels like Trent is experimenting with this kind of sounds, testing the waters to see how people will react to it, the work does feel like it’s “the best of ambient/noise remixed”, although there’s this NIN feel to it.
    I downloaded and probably I’ll buy the CDs from the site, as it’s good enough to make me think that NIN is worth watching out (after With Teeth I just erased it of my radar, fortunately this CC thing made it visible to me).

  8. Daniel Says:

    I like the album well enough. Of the 30+ tracks, I like approximately half of them a whole lot. Some of the others have a bit too much of a “jam session” feel for my tastes. Still it is a notable effort.

    Also of note, he posted instrumental mixes of Year Zero and Downward Spiral on, here are RSS feeds to them:

    Another interesting side note, though much more insignificant, is the effect of a 36 track album on my statistics. I would never imagine NIN being #1 across the board.

  9. Daniel Says:

    I don’t want to be obnoxious, but I want to add a little more, because I’ve been particularly intrigued by this album and it’s marketing. I have to say NIN is on it, from a marketing sense. The viral marketing from Year Zero was impressive if not entirely original (remember the Blair Witch Project marketing? It was amazing). But then Reznor follows-up with this. It is perfect, in my opinion. He has done everything right, and shows he is really in touch with internet culture, and the future trends of music. It is difficult for smaller artists to get away with this sort of tactic, but with more influential bands like NIN and Radiohead doing this sort of thing, it will lend a lot of credibility to DIY artists who attempt it.

    Though it feels weird praising NIN so highly, I definitely think it is a commendable effort.

  10. paul blume Says:

    I liked Year Zero, myself — at least TR wasn’t just whining about himself and/or his love-life/absence thereof.
    Didn’t LOVE it, mind you…
    (Haven’t felt strongly for anything from NIN since ‘Downward Spiral’, truth be told.)

  11. Red Scharlach Says:

    What was wrong with Year Zero? It’s one of my favourites along with Broken and certainly the best he came up with since The Fragile. It was a neat creative effort, and Ghosts really follows up impressively.

    In any case, much, much better marketing than that pathetic gimmicky stunt Radiohead pulled. I wish people would stop going on about poor quality MP3s forming half an album being distributed for peanuts as somehow radical.

  12. Zoetica Says:

    I found Year Zero to be gimmicky, right down to the so-2000 viral marketing campaign. It was trying too hard to re-capture the past instead of progressing, at least that’s how it it felt to me. A nice concept that didn’t pan out.

  13. chaoflux Says:

    I approve of this new effort, but nothing has really hit me like a ton of bricks.

    I panned Year Zero as it was too corny, but some of the graphics to the ARG were kinda interesting at least. [I’m basically talking about that scene that falls away and changes when you mouse over it.] The angst was probably genuine on some level, but it felt like a marketing shtick.

    Ghosts is fun. On some level I feel like its only the blend of nostalgia and novelty that keeps me interested.

    Downward Spiral FTW. :3

  14. Jon Munger Says:

    Great memory for the day: Listening to Ghosts on my iPod while I walked around the park, the sky going blue gray with spring rains.

    It’s been mentioned, but bears mentioning again that the really amazing thing is the distribution of the album. Trent’s carving out the model for future distribution, and not just with Ghosts. His work with Saul Williams for Niggy Tardust (which I love) is a nascent revolution. Though it didn’t sell as well as hoped, it sold better than his other albums, and had Williams included some kind of consumer vanity piece for a higher cost, it would have done better. But that’s just flexing a small muscle.

    What Trent did was reinvent the endorsement method. By being a big, influential artist like Trent, he can essentially let a select group of other artists piggyback his name recognition. It’s what touring bands have done for forever with their openers, but now the artist has complete control over who gets their endorsement.

  15. Mer Says:

    Major pop/rock labels would be terrified by the prospect of releasing a full length instrumental album in this uncertain day and age… even one as accessible and fun as Ghosts. They should be more scared by what Reznor’s managed to accomplish. While the music’s not particularly innovative, it is an ingenious marketing/release strategy. This man knows his fan base and he understands the alchemy of the interwub. Now, if only he’d pull a Scott Walker and REALLY go balls out into truly experimental, mold-breaking music… how amazing would that be?

  16. Skerror Says:

    Haven’t listened to it yet…probably will eventually…

    The distribution though yes! This definitely looks like the right cross to Radiohead’s probing left jab. I’m itching to see how much moolah this makes…hopefully it’s enough to make the fatcat label dinosaurs flood their undies.

    I’ll likely end up purchasing this and it’s going to feel more like a campaign donation than anything. I’m still feeling like the next Kurt Cobain, or whatever the thing is that’s going to free us from the consumer plantation hair metal indie knockoff mess of today…is going to be someone who comes up with a new working BUSINESS model. If it’s Trent…holy fuck, I’m going to get fat from drinking in all the sweet irony :D

  17. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Fragile, for my money was his best work up to that point. Loved everything before, but it hit home with where I was at ze time. With Teeth took a full 3 years before I could listen without cringing. I was wrong. It’s an album of merit. Year Zero, I effing love. I read that he was writing from ze perspective of what our world would be in 20 years should we continue on our current path (NIN + empathy = schtick?). Nothing gimmicky there, so far as I can see. As someone mentioned above, a plus here is that he’s not going on in his usual woe-is-me fashion. That was getting to be tired. Niggy, again, much love. Ze Year Zero remixes, I’m not in love with, but it’s still pretty damned tasty.

    Ghosts, I think is a 4 on a 5 NIN scale. Although, taking ze release tactics of it away, would likely bring it down to a 3.5. Still, it’s in heavy rotation in my stereo along with ze new Portishead. Reminds me of Trent’s work on QUAKE. Ze soundtrack no one seems to know he produced. A disc, I still pull out every so often. Those who’re digging Ghosts, i advise ye find a shareware version und pop it in. Oh, ze ‘mature’ label that’s being tossed around, i find a bit odd. It’s as if ‘restrained’ is ze new buzz word for growing older und wiser, artistically. It just doesn’t wash. I mean, there’s certainly a progression along his artistic life, that’s been mirrored by other artists reaching their stride, but it just seems like another fine NIN product, musically.

    But meh, it’s all personal taste.

  18. Red Scharlach Says:

    Viral marketing is far from dated, Zo. Nor are laptop albums.

  19. Tequila Says:

    @Mer “…Now, if only he’d pull a Scott Walker…”

    It’ll happen at some point. It just seems he can’t really go over that edge until he gives his fans The Downward Spiral Part II or something. The beauty of that album and really Manson’s Portrait of an American Family…is they could only happen once. As much as the themes, emotions, and intensity of what created those albums carry over into the rest of ones life (both for fans and creators) they are never exactly the same. Time and experience simply change ones perspective and it’s a bit of a shame so many want Trent and Co. to remain in the early 90’s.

  20. Shay Says:

    @Jerem –

    As Zoe said: [Year Zero] was trying too hard to re-capture the past instead of progressing

    I think that Year Zero, contrary to Reznor’s own claim, is really about looking backwards, aesthetically speaking. GHOSTS is, at the very least, looking honestly in the mirror, if not looking forwards. This is, of course, my opinion of the respective albums, but I do think it meshes well with their aesthetics as well as their given agendas. Year Zero is ‘the last album of its sort’, and while GHOSTS is not necessarily “the new”, it may very well be a taste of things to come.

    BTW, I agree on the QUAKE soundtrack, it’s excellent.

  21. Jerem Morrow Says:

    @Shay: Point taken. That’s ze beauty of it all, though, eh? We can each walk away with something different und gather in places like this to commune., whether we agree or not, without dealing with typical net bickering. :)

  22. John Black Says:

    I keep listening to the news speak about getting free online grant applications so I have been looking around for the best site to get one.

  23. badluckshadow13 Says:

    Ghosts was great… I wonder what the fuck Rob Sheridan will do now that NIN’s over though *begins checking demonbaby blog daily again*