“Not The Actual Events” was produced closely with Atticus Ross, who began to work with the band in 2007 – taking part in the recording of “Ghosts I-IV”- from this EP the english composer officially joins the band. It was described by Reznor as “an unfriendly, fairly impenetrable record that we needed to make, it’s an EP because that ended up being the proper length to tell that story.”When you have released two masterpieces like “Downward Spiral” and “The fragile”, it’s hard to meet the expectations you have created. In order to avoid a stalemate Nine Inch Nails have changed their industrial background different times, sometimes in more strict electronic ways, others in more ambient ones. Atticuss Ross’s entry as an official member of the band has unsettled their stylistic outlet position once again. The big stylistic gap which is created between the various songs represents different ideas that don’t find a meeting point, as if Reznor didn’t find an understanding with Ross.
The non-invasive sounds of “Branches/Bones” recalls the one of “The Fragile” characterized by a more limited distortion and highlighted melodies. Instead, the refrain is a noise explosion: the strain on Reznor’s acute voice sounds produce a highly scratchy result that underlines the character’s sense of confusion (Feels like I’ve been here before/Yeah, I don’t know anymore).”Dear world,” is an electro-oriented track, where the sound carrier is an electronic sequenced sound, closer to the idea behind “Hesitation marks”. It describes the frustrations of a man in a society which contradicts itself. The static nature of the song describes an uncomfortable condition from which the character can’t get out, he feels like trapped in a directionless world (“I can’t concentrate my way out“).The shy guitar riff in “She’s gone away” highlights the stinging percussion and the agony cries from the background, where a man fights between the certainly of a female figure loss and the desperation of senses. A mix of anger and despair weighed down by heavily distorted screams leads to a sense of confusion and pain, and the experience is made even more harrowing by the pounding sound of the drums.
“The Idea of You” is probably the most lacking track of this EP. The addition of David Grohl as drummer doesn’t lead to anything new, the track lost the typical industrial sound Nine Inch Nails always had moving towards a more trivial nu metal style. There is also a drop in the performance by Reznor, which is no longer able to impose himself on the various sounds, how he managed to do before.
“Burning Bright(Field on Fire)” is the liberation act, the character manages to “break the surface” and realize his subjective decline over the years (“look at this pathetic place I made“). The anger and the power in the Reznor’s voice overcomes the sadness and hopelessness. The last track of the EP is a throwback to the glorious times of “The Downward Spiral” and “The Fragile“, where self-criticism and self-destruction are dealt in first person.
While listening there is no continuity, every track refers to completely different contexts and environments, it’s really difficult to be fully involved throughout the story. Moreover, the resumption of sounds heard several times in Reznor’s previews productions transmits the feeling that we already heard everything on this record, making the experience even less immersive.