Published Apr 07, 2020Having brought counterculture to the mainstream in the '90s, Trent Reznor has spent the past decade becoming one of Hollywood's most prolific and prominent composers. The pivotal turning point was Nine Inch Nails' 2008 instrumental collection Ghosts I-IV — which was the moment Reznor stripped away some of his industrial beats and embraced spine-tingling ambient music.
Ghosts V: Together (released for free in tandem with the darker Ghosts VI: Locusts) sounds a hell of a lot more like Reznor's soundtrack work that it does NIN's usual electro-rock. It was even created alongside Reznor's usual soundtrack partner Atticus Ross (himself a core member of NIN).
Full of ambient drones and patient keyboard meditations, Ghosts V borrows liberally from Ross and Reznor's film scores — to the extent that it's easy to imagine many of these could be outtakes and leftovers. Opener "Letting Go While Holding On" evokes the unsettling spa music that underpinned 2014's Gone Girl, as does the ominously ascending guitar fuzz of closer "Still Right Here." The ear-piercing tones that slice through the otherwise lovely "Hope We Can Again" recall the mixture of abrasion and melody heard on 2018's Bird Box.
With eight tracks and a runtime of well over an hour, this is ambient music in its truest form. These ten-minute pieces shouldn't be listened to, exactly — they're best enjoyed in the background while we putter around our apartments, attempt to work from home, and try not to go too stir-crazy during coronavirus lockdown. It's the soundtrack for the real-life horror that is sitting at home and scrolling through the news.
Nine Inch Nails released Ghosts V: Together as a gift to fans, its title suggesting solidarity in spite of physical distancing. And while these haunting mood-pieces aren't exactly uplifting, they have a melancholic beauty that's comforting in these troubling times. Even if we're lonely, we're in it together. (The Null Corporation)