It’s amazing how hand-claps on the beat instantly feel cheerful and inclusive, but a burst of applause mid-song is a freakish, unnatural shock. They’re both just different ways we smack our human paws together after all, but they both feel very, very different within Sh-t Mirror, the opening track of Nine Inch Nails’ fascinating new album Bad Witch.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross play with all kinds of instrumental personification, always messing with our expectations of how analogue and artificial sounds should behave. They even manage to hijack your actual biology: there’s a lyric in Sh-t Mirror that’s impossible to hear (short of manipulating your playback) because, although it’s surrounded by silence, your ears are still recovering from a wall of sound that’s been cut off at the knees – it’s like the aural equivalent of your pupils taking time to dilate when you switch off a light.
Incorporating the warmth of saxophone and marimba (and voice – the Bowie-like beauty to Reznor’s vocals in the lyric “Time is running out, I don’t know what I’m waiting for” in Over And Out is astonishing), alongside bawling guitars, spacejunk jazz effects and those dependably powerful industrial beats, NIN have truly pushed the envelope in this final entry to their trilogy.
Bad Witch EP is out June 22 via Caroline.
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