Not the Actual Events is the first document of this new incarnation of NIN, a five-track EP released with little warning that splits the difference between the formless sketches of Ghosts I-IV, The Slip's stripped down industrial clang and the comparatively slicker Hesitation Marks.
"Branches/Bones" kicks things off with some meat-and-potatoes NIN, but its chorus seems to question the entire proceedings. "Feel's like I've been here before / Yeah, I don't know anymore / And I don't care anymore," sings Reznor. Fittingly, the track ends before it hits the two-minute mark.
The rest of the EP mixes and matches elements of NIN's prodigious sonic arsenal. The stomping creep of "She's Gone Away" is a highlight, while "The Idea of You" is probably the closest thing to a radio single here. On the surface this would appear to support Reznor's opening retort — maybe he's kept the band relatively dormant because he's simply run out of new ideas — but there is a more atmospheric quality to these songs that adds a sense of dread to the proceedings, pushing these songs beyond album filler material.
Rather than offering a bold new step in Reznor's long, winding career, Not the Actual Events feels more like tentative first steps towards something bigger. And there's enough here to suggest that whatever that next thing is will be worth the wait. (The Null Corporation)