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Nine Inch Nails - Fixed CD (album) cover

FIXED

Nine Inch Nails

 

Crossover Prog

3.03 | 12 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars One of the unparalleled joys of being an artist of any kind comes when you watch another inventive soul take what you've made and turn it into something that you couldn't have created yourself. I got to experience that very thing back in the mid 80s when Grammy-winning composer Richard Theisen took a simple inspirational story I'd penned and put an original musical score to it. As if that wasn't exciting enough, a female dancer friend of his choreographed a solo jazz routine for the piece and we both got to attend the video taping of her interpretative dance. It was incredibly fulfilling to watch what started out as a tiny seed grow into something I'd never anticipated. I tell you this in order to convey the exhilaration Nine Inch Nails' mastermind, Trent Reznor, must've felt when he turned over some of his songs to others to let them take his music to places he couldn't even imagine them going to. Not many artists are willing to do that but the payoff is often well worth the risk even if the outside world doesn't 'get it.'

'Fixed,' like any of this group's EPs, is a walk on the wild side. If you don't have an open, flexible mind then it's best that you steer clear of them and stick with the band's more comprehensible albums that are challenging enough in their own right. What I'm trying to say is that this record is not for the aurally conservative because widespread acceptance of the music it contains was obviously not part of the intent. To say that the six tracks here are boldly experimental is an understatement of epic proportion. 'Pushing the envelope' is a term that gets tossed around way too often but it's nonetheless very applicable to what this cadre of re-mixers deliver on 'Fixed.' Trent was in a legal dispute with his label at the time and, after moving into the infamous house where Charlie Manson's minions committed their heinous homicides, he decided to spend part of his free time inviting engineers and producers whose work he admired to drop into the makeshift studio he'd set up there and have a go at deconstructing his tunes and reconstructing them as they saw fit. The results take the listener into realms where even the most progressive of minds are stretched to their limit of tolerance.

The EP opens with 'Gave Up.' The odd 'electronic bullfrogs in a swamp' motif definitely lets you know you're not in Kansas anymore. Suddenly it switches to a frantically-paced barrage of Reznor's sampled vocals that shoot at you like a spray of bullets before it moves into a phase where he repeats the line 'it took you to make me realize' over and over. The 3rd section of the piece is a liquid-sounding deal that lasts a few minutes until the central theme returns. One of my notes read, 'This sure ain't your granddad's Sinatra LP!' Tribal drum beats draw you into 'Wish.' It features swishing, swirling cascades of white noise that precede a strong electric guitar riff that takes over and assaults your senses. I like the reckless approach taken here in reference to how the real drums are filtered and manipulated in ways I hadn't heard before. The backwards masking technique is also toyed with and it adds a foreign air to the proceedings. Let me issue a warning. The unrelenting power of this cut is near overwhelming. 'Happiness in Slavery' presents a monstrous throb that dominates the track from the get-go. Call it a fashion runway soundtrack for hip but vicious Trolls. (Sorry, writing a review for music like this demands that I tap into the surreal.) What follows that movement is a collision of banshee wails and synth-generated noises that is both brave and edgy.

'Throw This Away' is a melding of two of Trent's compositions, 'Suck' and 'Last.' It's a soundscape of teeming, renegade neurons accompanied by an unadorned bass line that serves as a focal point while an ominous, pounding audio wave approaches. It eventually breaks into an incredibly dense and heavy-handed segment at the end. 'Fist F**k' is next wherein alien car alarms ring out in the distance as a cloud of confusion surrounds and intimidates. Multi-tracked tom toms elicit a feeling of speeding down a dark road in an effort to outrun a pack of nightmarish flying demons. There are stretches of repetition in this mix that remind me of what I sometimes experience when contemplating modern art in that I sense there's a purpose behind the mayhem. They end with 'Screaming Slave.' An indecipherable wall of noise rises like mercury in a porch thermometer, then fluctuates while swarms of irate hornets attack your eardrums. A beat pattern arrives to provide a platform of sorts but this is by far the most outrageous and fearless track of them all. It's not, I repeat, NOT a tune that will impress your girlfriend so don't bother to expose her to it. This is so radical as to be indescribable and so mind-scrambling the CIA should've used it to break captured terrorists. Maybe they did. All I can say is enter this song at your own risk.

Released on Pearl Harbor day in December of 1992, only two and a half months after the milder-in-comparison 'Broken' EP of remixes, 'Fixed' is an adventurous exploration into what early 90s digital technology had to offer out on the extreme fringes. I applaud Reznor and his cohorts for letting their imaginations run amok without concern for reprisal or sarcastic criticism. While it's not music that I often choose to indulge in there's a part of me that finds this crazy stuff as intriguing as Picasso's fascinating forays into cubism. 3.4 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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