A much-needed respite
When Nine Inch Nails announced that they were releasing two albums earlier this month, it was admittedly a little hard to get enthused. While their latest album Bad Witch was excellent, the current world we’re in isn’t really the kind of world we want to add a Nine Inch Nails album to. But given that these two new albums (Ghosts V: Together, and Ghosts VI: Locusts) are of a more ambient nature than the usual Nine Inch Nails fare, they couldn’t have come at a better time.
Of the two records, Ghosts V: Together is the more traditionally ambient. It immediately calls to mind classics from Brian Eno and William Basinski, and while it wears those influences plainly on its sleeve, it still manages to create interesting interpretations of those influences. Tracks like “Apart” and “Hope We Can Again” make use of feedback and high pitched notes that you might find on a more traditional NIN record. The resulting record ends up splitting an interesting balance between more ambient and more industrial that leads to one of the most compelling ambient releases this year or even the last five years.
The sister release Ghosts VI: Locusts takes the elements that started to make Ghosts V: Together work, and cranks them up to a Gone Girl level. This album is far more focused on using the ambient to induce dread or anxiety, which is more of a standard operating procedure for NIN. Luckily, none of this record comes across as dry in any way, shape, or form. Each track, from the slow, pensive “The Cursed Clock” to the panicked “Run Like Hell” weaves a thrilling narrative that swallows the listener whole.
When taken together as a single piece, the albums become even more effective. They bounce off of each other in fantastic ways. “When it Happens (Don’t Mind Me)” plays as an excellent foil to “With Faith.” The former’s frantic strings harshly oppose the cool chants and calming synths of the latter. Each track has a counterpart that calls to mind the complexity of the human condition and our ability to fluctuate between these two states in an instant.
Though both of these records are by no means happy, they are meditative in a way that feels especially prescient in the current moment. While we are all stuck inside, we are laid bare to our own psyches. Both the soothing, calm thoughts that remind us everything will be alright and the pensive, even panicked thoughts that race through our minds in the darkest hours. These albums serve as an excellent illustration of these two mindsets, whether intentional or not, and are essential pieces of listening because of it.