Today is truly a glorious day, for today is the day when two major eras of my musical lifetime clash in the most harmonious way possible. Nine Inch Nails is quite possibly the most famous and influential industrial act of all time, and on his own, Trent Reznor has composed Grammy-winning film scores and garnered the acclaim of critics and fans worldwide. Now, EDM superstar deadmau5 has tried his hand at altering one of this musical titan’s tracks for himself–and he’s succeeded.
Survivalism was the first official single from NIN‘s 2008 album Year Zero. An ambitious project from the start, Year Zero featured an extensive alternate reality game, or ARG, that popped up online months before its release: flyers and flash drives were found at shows, containing tracks from the album alongside anomalous information in audio and visual form; websites started appearing, detailing a dystopian future where the government controls information and mysterious phenomena occur frequently; and, finally, Trent himself released cryptic clues through various portals, adding to the tension and suspense of the release buildup. Survivalism was a call-to-arms for the people of this dark future: a hectic, fast-paced, aggressive track, Survivalism outlines some of the perils of this world (“I’ve got my propaganda, I’ve got revisionism/I’ve got my violence in hi-def ultra realism”), and also inspires the listener to stand up against this oppression (“I’ve got my fist, I’ve got my plan/I’ve got survivalism”).
Nine Inch Nails – Survivalism
Year Zero was a shift away from past NIN experiments into synthpop, industrial rock, and experimental electronica; instead, it acted almost as a transition into the dance world. Despite its fast pace and hectic nature, Survivalism has a great beat with an intellectual backdrop. Vessel is, in some sense, a follow-up to 1994 smash hit Closer: a dark, pulsating track with an explosive chorus and an undeniable groove, it almost seems like blasphemy to equate it to EDM, but, in some sense, that’s what it is. A few other tracks, like Capital G (on a smooth 6/8 groove, nonetheless), God Given, Me, I’m Not, and My Violent Heart enter solidly into dance territory; the end of The Great Destroyer degenerates into what could be called nothing less than the late-2000s version of glitchy dub.
So, in some sense, it makes sense for modern electronic legend deadmau5 to try his hand at remixing the industrial master. deadmau5‘s remix of Survivalism takes the track in an entirely different direction: while the spacious, foreboding dark atmosphere of the original remains intact–an extremely difficult feat to pull off, as Reznor is the master of this modern oppressive gloom–deadmau5 strips the tempo away and comes up with an experiment in structural minimalism. The verse is nothing more than Reznor‘s distorted voice, a skeleton drum rhythm, and an ironically clean bassline; all the chorus adds is a bit more aggression, with filtered samples screaming through the speakers with an interesting lo-fi effect that’s fairly characteristic of NIN‘s music.
Nine Inch Nails – Survivalism (deadmau5 Remix)
deadmau5 is one of the most diverse and interesting house producers around now: having done everything from trance, progressive, and electro to minimal and even ambient, he’s no stranger to trying new things, and that’s perhaps why his Survivalism remix has turned out so incredibly well. There are a lot of parallels between NIN and deadmau5, actually: incredible live shows, outstanding releases and practically mythological personas are common between these two artists, and while they may come from different backgrounds and influences, they have come together triumphantly on Survivalism.