Saturday, 15 July 2017

Single Review | Nine Inch Nails | 'Less Than' (2017)

image via nine inch nails

Unbeknownst to me, Nine Inch Nails dropped a new single on Thursday (13 July) entitled ‘Less Than’, which is the lead single from their upcoming EP Add Violence. Set to be released in just six days, Add Violence is the second installment of a trilogy of EPs that the band are releasing in 2017/18.

Not the Actual Events (December 22, 2016) was the first installment, with a third and final EP set to be released in six to eight months. This was all revealed in an email from frontman Trent Reznor to customers affected by a recent vinyl delay via the band’s site, which read:

‘Did you know there’s a new top-secret Nine Inch Nails EP that will be released before the first two shows we do this Summer? Did you know ‘Not the Actual Events’ was the first part of the trilogy of related EPs that will be released about 6-8 months apart? Now you do. More information on this shortly…’

Whilst Not the Actual Events signaled a gritty throwback to the hard, electronic ambiance of early 1990s Nine Inch Nails, their latest single ‘Less Than’ is a slice of industrial rock/synthwave heaven.
I had no idea how much I needed this.

I adored the tracks on Not the Actual Events – ‘She’s Gone Away’ in particular – for their hauntingly beautiful ambient sounds, but ‘Less Than’ is 3 minutes and 33 seconds of what I love most about this band, and then some. ‘Less Than’ manages to combine the atmosphere of Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral alongside Hesitation Marks (especially ‘Copy of A’), whilst maintaining its own entity.

The 80s vibe pours out of this track, you get the familiar, ATARI like jab of nostalgia directly from the scattered synth notes littered over the drum beat in the eight seconds of the track. ‘Less Than’ only builds from there, exploding into the famed NIN guitar distortion that envelops the chorus. Throughout the course of the song, Reznor screams and crones about our current, fucked up present day (Shut up, silence / Ass a little violence / And offend and pretend / And defend and demand my compliance).

‘Less Than’ is an outer-body experience. This experience is aided by the hypnotic, mind-bending music video that could easily be a sequence straight of Cronenberg’s Videodrome. We and the woman in the video are enveloped and captivated by the alleged 1981 arcade game Polybius.

Polybius became an urban legend in 1998, and is believed to have been part of a government incited psychology experiment, where players were reduced to psychoactive and addictive behaviour including amnesia, insomnia, night terrors and hallucinations. Jeff Minter of Llamasoft created his own Polybius, inspired by the original urban legend. After Reznor contacted Minter and mentioned he’d played – and enjoyed – numerous Llamasoft games, and wanted to use Polybius as the centre of the music video for ‘Less Than’. Subsequently, Minter created a custom build of the video game for the PC that allowed editors to configure the games effect sequencing; i.e. to add the lyrics that appear on screen.

Everything about this song and music video fully encompasses what I love most about Nine Inch Nails; their insanely perplexing creativity.

… Did I mention how much I love Nine Inch Nails? 

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