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A Drowning

A Drowning

May 4, 2010
3.7 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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By Richard Clayton on May 5, 2010
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How to Destroy Angels is a new musical project from Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame), and "A Drowning" is a very promising single. It combines NIN's signature musical flourishes with beautifully desolate vocals from singer Mariqueen Maandig (formerly of West Indian Girl); with a musical pedigree like that, it's no wonder this track is a champion.

"A Drowning" may not be to everybody's taste; the overall sound is much more evocative of "The Great Below" and "The Day the World Went Away" than "Wish." Still, if you're a fan of industrial or experimental music, or even if you just like downbeat tunes with good vocals, you should give this a listen.
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I write this with the full knowledge that my opinion will change after I hear the whole EP and also that I will be BUYING the EP pretty much immediately. Why? Because it's NIN related and I'm an idiot. Not that those two things are mutually exclusive, but you get my point.

I really dig triphop downbeat electronica stuff like Portishead and even Supreme Beings of Leisure kinda fits the genre, so this is a decent track. I guess my issue here is that this is Trent Reznor. First, any fan will tell you he just recycled a piano riff from "Right Where It Belongs" in the chorus of "A Drowning," but more importantly, I really hoped that something "not NIN" by Reznor would sound..... not like NIN. This is so similar that it's impossible to NOT compare them, which in a way isn't really fair if he's trying for something different. But so far, he hasn't succeeded - it's not different enough. Now, if HTDA was an acoustic group that had solos played on the saw and Mariqueen did some throat singing...... okay, I probably wouldn't like it, but I'd at least applaud the effort to do something totally different. I'm not saying I don't or won't like HTDA, but it's (currently) not as good as Nine Inch Nails and I've not yet heard a reason that they shouldn't be compared.
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I've been a NIN fan since I was 11 years old. I have seen them live 2 dozen times and have never been disappointed with anything Trent has produced over the years (with the exception of With_Teeth). Needless to say I was extremely disappointed when it was announced that Trent was moving on to different ventures, bands, productions, etc. etc. and that NIN as a touring entity was dead.

Fair enough, at 40 something years old it has to be hard to relate to something you created two decades ago when you were still a kid. Then again, he took a huge step in having the band evolve with him and with his maturity. Year Zero was a great example of how he can write something that isn't terribly melodramatic, self-loathing, and full of teen angst.

Now to the point. I was very much looking forward to some new material (as in not new NIN material) from Trent and Co. With the word NEW I wanted something NEW. This seems as if it could be recycled or discarded material off of Year Zero, perhaps the Fragile, or the Slip. I do enjoy the song quite a bit (although her voice doesn't necessarily fit it all that well). But, again...this is material that could have been thrown on more than one NIN record. I am still going to get the new record when it's released. Loyalty counts for something doesn't it? But, I know now to not expect anything unrelated to NIN.

Mariqueen's voice is...soothing. Not at all haunting which would be more fitting and the lyrics are...boring to say the least. If the aim was to shoot for a visceral and raw emotional sound as exhibited in Portishead then they have failed. But again, still a good tune.

Take it for what it's worth. Download this song if you're looking for something NIN'esque without Trents voice. If you're looking for Trent to diverge from what he's done before don't bother.
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A lot of people are walking into this track,expecting NIN and wanting it to be NIN, and getting something different. This of course is causing its fair share of enmity.

This is far more reminiscent, to me, of Recoil*: Alan Wilder's (Depeche Mode) solo work and Massive Attack. I suspect we'll see this on a soundtrack somewhere in the future.

It's a downtempo track, with ambient synths and piano running along the background. It's a very promising start, and if the EP expands upon this sound, it will be a solid release.

Expect HTDA and nothing else.
*See:Liquid
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It's Nine Inch Nails, but with Trent's wife singing. What more does a true NIN fan need? Very atmospheric, and all that could have been...best when listened to in a dark room with headphones. I like. I give it three thumbs up!
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It's ok. Two problems: recycling and vocal mixing.

The problem that Trent has here is recycling. In virtually all of his songs/works in the past, each had a unique "sound" that was created and played and wasn't heard in any other song. So when I listen to this new song, I hear the piano from "Right Where it Belongs" from With Teeth, a bit of "Corona Radiata" from The Slip, and most notable "The Day the World Went Away (Quiet)" from the single EP. So the sounds of at least three songs have now fused to one. The song even follows the patterning of "Lights in the Sky".

Her voice...well, it doesn't work so well as it stands. Ok ok! This is new material and maybe I'm expecting NIN from non-NIN material...but...I listen to a lot of downbeat/ambient etc. and while the "sound" this song creates falls in that category, her voice is flat, emotionless, and far too quiet/soothing for what she's "speaking" about... I think her voice needs to be recessed further into the mix with more spatial integration considering the ambiance of the music; despite being quiet, her voice is too forward in the mix that makes her sound detached from the soundscape she's singing in. In terms of the voice itself, she needs to change it up a bit and provide a "sonic signature" trait that distinguishes her voice from other female vocalists...a trait successful vocalists are always remembered by.
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