Roughly a year after Year Zero
-- a year marked by lots of sniping with his record company first about their clueless promotion then devolving into a tirade about their general uselessness -- Trent Reznor broke free of Interscope/Universal and became a free agent, releasing music where and when he wanted. To celebrate his freedom he released the four-part Ghosts
, a clearinghouse of 36 instrumentals all created during the years he crafted Year Zero
. It should come as no great surprise that Ghosts
then plays like a sketchbook, a place where Reznor jotted down sounds and textures that flitted across his mind and then either took them no further, or decided to spin them into something entirely new for the full album. These aren't songs, they're seeds, and they (appropriately) aren't even graced with titles; they're all dubbed "Ghosts," parts one through 36, and if Reznor didn't spend enough time crafting them into proper songs, don't feel too bad if you don't spend enough time with Ghosts
to sort through them, picking out which fragments are powered by a clenched electro beat and which are glassy ambient shards. Even fanatics might be hard-pressed to give Ghosts
such a careful listen as it's simply not meant to be so closely observed. It's meant to be taken as surface, perhaps skimmed for samples, but generally to be used as mildly unsettling mood music -- a specialty of Reznor's, to be sure, but he's better and scarier when his ideas are more finely honed than they are here.