Until recently, Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor wasn't known for being prolific. But in the three years since 2005's With Teeth, he's doubled his output of the '90s, with Year Zero in 2007, a four-part instrumental collection called Ghosts I-IV earlier this year, and The Slip, originally available digitally in May for free at nin.com, but out now on CD.
Just as Year Zero received less attention for music than its guerilla marketing—the concept album's elaborate story could be pieced together and elaborated upon using clues from various media—The Slip has gotten more attention for its flagrant flouting of music-industry standards. Reznor made it at breakneck speed for an artist of his stature: It was written over the course of a month, recorded in three weeks in his home studio, mixed and sequenced in an astounding single day, mastered the next day, given artwork the next, and released before the week was out.
Unsurprisingly, The Slip lacks polish. Reznor's vocal flub at the beginning of "Discipline" remains, but the songs don't sound underproduced, either. The hard-hitting early tracks "1,000,000," "Letting You," and "Discipline" are particularly good, though typical; Reznor keeps farming the same fertile ground that yielded The Slip's predecessors. Also typical is "Lights In The Sky," which follows the brooding, minimalist tradition Reznor established with "Hurt" in 1994. An ominous fog hangs over it and "Corona Radiata," a seven-and-a-half-minute song that splits its time between ambient coda to "Lights," and a gradual introduction to the similarly instrumental "The Four Of Us Are Dying."
Roughly 15 and a half subdued, mostly instrumental minutes pass between the lively "Echoplex" and the intense album closer "Demon Seed," more than ample time for listeners' interest to wane. But in Reznor's digital age, fans can remix the songs at nin.com, or simply leave the boring ones off their iPods. He wouldn't have it any other way.