Earlier this month Trent Reznor’s youngest project HTDA celebrated the release of their debut album Welcome Oblivion. I was a huge fan of their self-titled first EP that came out in 2010, only mildly excited about the second EP Keep It Together that was released last year, and ultimately disappointed with How Long?, their first single release from the new album. To be honest, I wasn’t really anticipating the album and almost didn’t give it a chance. But I’m glad I did after all! Although a lot of the songs from the second EP and the mentioned single make up a large portion of the album it still turned out to be quite amazing. Read my review, listen to the album and check out the music videos after the jump.
Normally I find it really hard to put the style of a music project into words, but in this case I can think of so many: On the surface it seems quite minimal, but if you take your time to listen to it closely it actually reveals quite a lot of layers of interesting beats and soundscapes. It has an industrial roughness to it, in some parts almost noisey, very reminiscent of Raznor’s famous band Nine Inch Nails. But at the same time it’s quite slow, melancholic and sensual, thanks to the beautiful voice of Reznor’s wife Mariqueen Maandig. Every song seems to follow a certain structure, taking up pace, building up drama over several minutes and than exploding in sounds in the end – reminds me actually quite a lot of Björk who also rarely follows the typical verse/bridge/chorus structure of pop music.
The album opener The Wake-up is an amazing start that sets the mood perfectly for this record. My absolute highlights are the title track Welcome Oblivion, that I think is quite mind-blowing, Too Late, All Gone , that would have made for a perfect single choice, and the very beautiful slow song Ice Age, that is a wonderful showcase of Maandig’s singing talent. A lot of the songs from the previous EP have grown on me over time, but I still think that How Long? is the weakest track and a horrible choice for the first single. It’s the typical story of trying to make a “radio-friendly” track for an album that is absolutely not radio-friendly. It’s better to not even try.
What I found most peculiar about this project is the fact that a lot of critics and fans of Nine Inch Nails have given Reznor shit for working with his wife. To them it feels like he’s going soft or selling out. I find that so strange. I mean, it’s just a different music project with a different sound. I totally understand him for wanting to work with his partner. To me that is one of the most amazing things in a relationship, when you are able to work together creatively, it can be so beautiful and rewarding. And to me HTDA is a out-standing example of that.
Have a listen to the album below, but be aware it will take a while to soak it up and appreciate it, but than it’s the more rewarding. Btw. if you buy the album digitally you will get all the songs from the first EP included, that alone is worth it!