Well, I meant to get to this weeks ago, but for some reason I had totally forgotten that this had come out. Trent Reznor is one of the most revered figures in alternative music; a sort of twisted genius exudes from the guy that is wholly unique. And now with an academy award for his soundtrack work, it seems like NIN might have been put on the backburner, but this hasn’t really been the case. While I was not a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails’ previous studio album Hesitation Marks, I was still excited to hear that Reznor was working on new music. In fact, the lead up to this new EP was a most torturous series of teases, with Reznor insisting that fans would hear new music in 2016, only to wait until just before the end of the year to drop it. I found the supremely clean production of Hesitation Marks to be a bit of a weak point, especially since Reznor has never been shy about loading his music with sharp stabs of noise. But boy does he go in the exact opposite with Not The Actual Events. This is one of the most lo-fi, messily produced, and overall grimy recordings NIN have ever cut to tape. It almost seems like a conscious effort to throwback to their influential 1992 EP Broken, which acted as a signpost for the heavier sound that was to come later on The Downward Spiral. Whether or not the parallel was intentional, I feel like Reznor has decided to throw accessibility to the wind on this, and the result is, in my opinion, the best Nine Inch Nails release since With Teeth. The only thing coming close to resembling something you could call a single is the electro-thrash “The Idea Of You”, a song that sounds like it would fit snuggly with the industrial metal tracks on the aforementioned Broken EP. The rest is decidedly avante-garde, even by NIN standards, choosing to go more for atmosphere and vibe to push the songs along rather than catchy vocal lines. There’s a noticeable lack of hooks on this little collection of songs, but that’s not really a negative when the texture of the music is the main focal point. That being said, the sound here, even as enthusiastic as I am about it, is still a bit underdeveloped. I guess that’s where the idea of it being an EP comes into play. There’s more room to experiment with a smaller release like this than one would normally get under the pressure of making a full studio album. I hope Nine Inch Nails continues in this direction, as I think it could provide the project with the second wind that it has needed for the past couple of years.