Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ghosts I-IV

GhostsAh, it's been quite a break. But to be honest, over the last month or so, not too much has happened to excite in the music industry. iPods are still the rage, CD sales continue to plummet, and Chinese Democracy still isn't out. What else is new?

The spiffiest bit of news is that last week Trent Reznor released a new album, Ghosts I-IV, out of nowhere. Why the guy's decided to be so prolific for the last few years is anyone's guess, but it makes the H-Man happy.

The Ghosts release is interesting for a multitude of reasons:
  1. It is Trent's first release outside of his longtime record company, Interscope.
  2. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license.
  3. It is entirely instrumental.
  4. It is currently available via download only.
  5. The songs are numbered, not named.
  6. It is broken into four parts, the first of which (nine songs) is completely free to download in 320 kbps mp3 format, and comes with some multimedia extras, such as wallpaper and file icons.
  7. The entire thing can be purchased for as little as $5 (choice of mp3 or lossless format) or as much as $300 (limited edition set, now sold out). The pricier items include CDs, DVDs of the raw tracks, Blu-ray discs in high resolution stereo, audiophile quality vinyl, hardcover books, and signed pieces of art.
At first I was going to simply wait for the 2-disc version to hit stores next month, but after downloading the first part for free, I caved and bought the $75 set. Why? Because Trent cares. If you play the music files in a supported mp3 player, you get high resolution photos for each individual song (plus time signature and BPM information). The photos are beautiful, and I'm looking forward to seeing them in a printed book. I don't have a Blu-ray player yet (emphasis on yet), but the Internet's tubes know how much I love high resolution audio. A little bit of love goes a long way, so I decided to throw him my cash.

I won't go into too much detail about the quality of the music. Let's just say that it's about what I expected. If you are a fanboy of nin, a fanboy of ambient music, a fanboy of instrumental music (remember his Quake soundtrack? Lost Highway?), and/or are a fanboy of David Lynch, you'll get this. Otherwise you might just want to stick to listening to "Head Like a Hole" and "Closer".

It's hard to ignore this release. It was completely unexpected, gives the finger to the music industry via its delivery system, and is 100% pure art. One has to admire the magnitude of this thing, even though it was destined to be talked about simply because Trent's a magician at drawing attention to himself while somehow convincing us that he hates drawing attention to himself. The Rez-man pulls a rabbit out his hat every time.

For the technically interested: the tricky part for me was "properly" converting the lossless flac files I downloaded into mp3 files (hey, one has to have a version of the album that takes up less space). Decoding the flac to wav, burning to a CD, then extracting and re-encoding to my preferred 192 VBR mp3 quality was easy. The tricky bit was reinserting all the extra tagging that was in there (the time signature and BPM stats) plus the individual photos for each song. Much thanks to Winamp, which allowed me to copy the pictures out to a file, then Tag&Rename, which allowed me drag them onto the new tags. A bit slow, but the end results are very professional.


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