This post has been corrected. See below for details.
How to Destroy Angels
“An Omen_” EP
Three and a half stars
One of the prettiest songs of the year, How to Destroy Angels’ “Ice Age” was in part crafted by an artist best known for his tense discomfort. Trent Reznor, whose early career was spent in a testosterone swirl of machine-gun rhythms but who over the years developed a way to wallow in a slower, creepier kind of misery, has let in some sunlight.
“Ice Age” is one of six songs on the group’s fantastic new EP, and it stands out for singer Mariqueen Maandig’s wisp of a voice. Known around L.A. as the former vocalist of West Indian Girl, her work throughout “An Omen_” offers a brand of texture otherwise unavailable to deep-voiced Reznor. But that stands to reason: How to Destroy Angeles is its own beast, a collaboration among Reznor, Maandig (who is Reznor’s wife), Atticus Ross and Rob Sheridan.
Taken together, “An Omen_” draws on turn-of-the-century trip-hop — slow, syrupy rhythms with space for breathing and post-hip-hop beat — as well as the 1980s electronic experiments of Throbbing Gristle and its many offshoots (“How to Destroy Angels” is the title of a Coil song). “On the Wing” is a feast of synthetic frequencies and rubbery beats, warm with energy despite voices whispering, “I don’t believe in anything.” And “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” feels like a 1970s experiment in synthesizer programming, like Conrad Schnitzler or Tangerine Dream taken to another realm.
Correction: The orignal version of this post wrongly identified its title. It is called “An Omen EP_,” not “The Omen.” As well, a lyric quoted in the review is from a song called “On the Wing,” not, as written, “Hold It Together.”