HTDA spells NIN
For years now, Trent Reznor has casually mentioned in interviews a desire to work with a female singer, dropping names like Sade and Lauryn Hill as candidates on his wish list. It seems he has finally found his long-awaited chanteuse in his new wife, Mariqueen Maandig, formerly of West Indian Girl.
Under the moniker How to Destroy Angels, the duo (along with longtime NIN producer-collaborator Atticus Ross) has released a self-titled, six-song EP available for free download (CD available in July, vinyl to come). Despite the different musical backgrounds from which each artist hails, there’s no question this is a Reznor project. There is no sign of the spacey pop of West Indian Girl and no track would sound out of place among Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails releases, particularly more recent works Ghosts and The Slip.
The songs move with ease from trance-inducing white noise (lead single “The Space in Between”) to funky dance beats with a dark side (“Fur Lined”) to mostly instrumental plucky meditations (“The Believers”). The only thing that could differentiate this release from a Nine Inch Nails project is Maandig herself, but she is unfortunately not quite there yet.
Maandig’s vocals are subdued throughout, breathy, and blending with the electronic soundscapes crafted around her, rather than taking center stage. On occasion (“Parasite”) she shadows her husband, adding a sense of depth to the vocals. However, this effect doesn’t offer anything more than if Reznor had simply recorded his own harmony, something he has frequently done to great success. The trick works better in reverse, as when he shadows her vocals on “BBB” and “The Believers.” She lacks presence and is easily overshadowed by the music. If Reznor wishes to truly present this project as something other than a tangential “NIN-lite plus a woman,” Maandig needs to become a force.
In this first release, it feels like the new band has stuck close by past successes, namely Nine Inch Nails. Of course, it works. The EP is an enticing introduction to what could be. Hopefully, in future releases Maandig will have more opportunity to stretch her abilities as a singer, and craft an identity her own. Until she does, HTDA will simply spell NIN.