Ghosts I–IV


Ghosts I–IV is the sixth studio album by American industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails, released in 2008. The team behind the project included Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor, studio-collaborators Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder, and instrumental contributions from Alessandro Cortini, Adrian Belew, and Brian Viglione.

Reznor described the music of Ghosts as ‘a soundtrack for daydreams,’ a sentiment echoed by many critics who compared it with the work of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. The songs are unnamed, and are identified only by their track listing and group number.

Following the Performance 2007 tour in support of the band’s previous album ‘Year Zero,’ Reznor set out to make a record ‘with very little forethought.’ Ghosts I–IV originated from an experiment: ‘The rules were as follows: 10 weeks, no clear agenda, no overthinking, everything driven by impulse. Whatever happens during that time gets released as … something.’

Reznor described the band’s early intentions for the project as ‘an experiment,’ and explained the group’s process: ‘When we started working with the music, we would generally start with a sort of visual reference that we had imagined: a place, or a setting, or a situation. And then attempt to describe that with sound and texture and melody. And treat it, in a sense, as if it were a soundtrack.’

The musicians created the album tracks through improvisation and experimentation. As a result, the initial plan to release a single EP of the material expanded to include the increasing amount of material.

Viglione contributed percussion to tracks 19 and 22. He stated that Reznor’s instructions to him were to ‘”build a drumkit. Piece together any stuff that you want to bang on; rent what you want to rent. Have fun and … be creative—See where your mind and your ideas take you.’ Viglione’s makeshift drum kit included a 50-gallon trash can, a pair of water cooler jugs, and a cookie tray with a chain across it.

Alessandro Cortini is credited on a total of ten tracks from Ghosts for his contributions on guitar, bass guitar, dulcimer, and electronics. Adrian Belew was also brought on for select instrumental contributions, but as the project evolved Reznor expanded Belew’s involvement and shared writing credit with him on two tracks.

Ghosts I–IV is an almost entirely instrumental album, with only a few tracks containing sampled vocals (such as a sample doctored from the Trial of Saddam Hussein). The album features a wide assortment of musical instruments, including piano, guitar, bass, synthesizer, marimba, tambourine, banjo, dulcimer, and xylophone, many of which were sampled and distorted electronically.

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