Trent Reznor is a Master of Balance

Trent Reznor (Drawing: Srta.Aiko)
Trent Reznor (Drawing: Srta.Aiko)

The thing you have to bear in mind about Trent Reznor's music is that some of it — not all of it, mind, but some of it — is quite literally perfect.

It was only after analyzing Capital G, muting and unmuting various channels, that I managed to fully appreciate why this is. Balance. Trent's a genius at balance. While Aphex Twin and Autechre are in strange little worlds of their own, and countless rock stars don't dare to break away from the rigid pop mould, Trent Reznor has perfected the balance between these two extremes.

Capital G contains a harsh noise solo played on a modular synthesiser, but it also contains cheesy backing vocals on the chorus. Trent is often experimenting with interesting time signatures and even polyrhythms, but just as often sticks to the formula of writing arrangements with quiet verses and loud choruses — usually within the very same songs. While Mr. Self Destruct ends in a long bout of abrasive noise, A Warm Place is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. The Day the World Went Away, a painful song about suicide, is offset by The Frail, a quiet, contemplative piano solo. Time after time, loud and downright offensive timbres play catchy melodies.

This balance isn't present on every album. Pretty Hate Machine was far too restrained, presumably compelling him to counteract it with the wonderfully nasty Broken. Overall, however, Trent Reznor seems to be a master of yin and yang: for every artistic expression, there is an equal and opposite pop sensibility.