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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Last month, Nine Inch Nails released its latest album on the Internet. The heavy rock band left its long-time label and offered some new tracks for free. At the same time, it sold fans special editions at premium prices. In the first week, Nine Inch Nails made over $1.6 million.

Last week, the instrumental album called, "Ghosts I-IV," got a traditional release, the old-fashioned way. And Tom Moon has a review.

TOM MOON: To a lot of people, Nine Inch Nails mean this.

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MOON: Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor spent most of the '90s belting misanthropic anthems for young people decked out in dark eyeliner and combat boots. His records are built around his vocals, but they're equally notable for thick Temple of Doom soundscapes. On his new release, Reznor drops the singing and puts those atmospheres in the center ring.

(Soundbite of music)

MOON: It's a whole new world without the vocals. You can hear Reznor exploring rhythms and textures outside of his comfort zone.

(Soundbite of music)

MOON: On several of these short pieces, Reznor creates ambient drones like the ones Brian Eno pioneered in the 1970s. Then he adds melodies that aspire to introspective stillness, much like the piano music of French composer Erik Satie. The result is transfixing.

(Soundbite of music)

MOON: Like Radiohead's recent "In Rainbows," this new Nine Inch Nails release is another example of an established act walking away from the big label, and finding creative ways to reach diehard fans. It allows Trent Reznor to share sketches and experiments, an overly generous 36 of them. It's exactly the kind of move that would have terrified the fat-cat executives at Reznor's former label.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: Our reviewer is Tom Moon. The new album from Nine Inch Nails is called "Ghost I-IV." You can hear three tracks from the CD at our Web site, go to npr.org/music.

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