“Once I start, I cannot stop myself,” Trent Reznor sings in “Discipline,” the most conventional tune on the unconventionally released The Slip, which hit the Internet in May with a price tag even a Radiohead fan could love. (“Thank you for your continued and loyal support,” the Nine Inch Nails mastermind wrote on his site. “This one’s on me.”) As is true of nine out of every ten NIN tracks, “Discipline” is about submission and domination, but Reznor might as well be referring to his work ethic of late: Including Ghosts IIV, the instrumental set he released online earlier this year, The Slip is the fifth NIN full-length he’s issued since his 2005 comeback, With Teeth. Funny that the blog era’s ideal rock stars got started back when going online meant standing in a queue.
Remarkably, Reznor’s output hasn’t taken the shape of a downward spiral: Like last year’s Year Zero, The Slip is primo death funk, with Reznor seething seductively about skies fading to black over grinding soundscapes that perfectly split the difference between computer-music clarity and live-band grit. As always, a few tracks, such as “The Four of Us Are Dying,” go on for far too long. But every time he threatens to disappear into the digital slipstream, Reznor recovers with a barn burner like “Demon Seed,” where the gristle throbs unremittingly. Vacation can wait.