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Nine Inch Nails, 'Hesitation Marks' Review

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Marks' Makes It Rain Acid Beats9Hesitation Marks


Release Date: September 3, 2013Label: Columbia

August 30 2013, 9:40 AM ETby Christopher R. Weingarten

As a record from the gear-grinding, bloodletting, mud-sweat-and-tears, industrial void-enterer Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks is an almost scandalous about-face, powering down the Hate Machine and revving up the Man-Machine, boldly exploring "EBM" for a generation of headbangers still coming to terms with the throbbing gristle of "EDM." As part of a cultural moment, it's the third in a trilogy of bluntly minimal albums — following the Knife's Shaking the Habitual and Kanye West's Yeezus — that retrofit an icon's chosen genre into a blocky, clinical, Piet Mondrian painting. Noise is rendered as tight, impenetrable polygons of sound; beats are clicked together like Duplo bricks in primary colors; 808s areheartbreak; and everyone seems to be jacking to the same circa-1988 Chicago house records.

All of which to say, this is the most important artistic statement from NIN leader Trent Reznor since the late '90s, when SPIN dubbed him "the Most Vital Artist in Music Today." You can follow Reznor's status as a relevant figure because it always runs parallel to his relationship with hip-hop — another genre that hit pop paydirt with noise, repetition, and first-person emotional autopsies. Reznor was Lolla-generation vanguard when he was also on rap's cutting edge: 1989's Pretty Hate Machine churned with the tinny, broken-Walkman, traffic-jam bustle of Public Enemy (thanked in the liner notes, presumably sampled); 1994's The Downward Spiral had the warts-and-all grit and somber confessionals of Wu-Tang Clan ("Hurt" was promptly sampled by Ice Cube's Westside Connection); and 1999's long-awaitedThe Fragile had the wide-screen auteuristic vision of Dr. Dre (who helped mix) or Puff Daddy (who got a remix).

You know, new NIN sounds a lot like their early sound, to me, too.

Very Pretty Hate Machine / Downward Spiral. Which is a good thing.

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