The short, punky intro Branches/Bones gets the EP up and running, with growling synths and driving bass that allows Reznor to deploy his patented talk-singing over the top which really brings back memories of the Nine Inch Nails of old. The dry sound of 2008's The Slip is referenced quite a bit, but the song is under two minutes long and soon transitions into Dear World, (the comma is part of the title). Dear World, is based around a slightly funky programmed drum beat with electronics that swirl around with surprisingly strong melodies. The song is fairly low-key however, without exploding into the rage that characterised much of the band's early works. Reznor's vocals are pretty melancholic here, which suits the synth-heavy sound perfectly. The centrepiece of the EP is the lengthy She's Gone Away, which is a classic Nine Inch Nails drone driven by a fuzzy bassline which is punctuated with bursts of heavily-overdriven guitar which is a great contrast to the controlled pulse of the rest of the song. Reznor's wife, Mariqueen Maandig (West Indian Girl; How to Destroy Angels), provides some subtle vocal harmonies throughout the song, mostly during the chorus, which adds a haunting feel to the song, while the wind-like atmospheric bring in that horror even more. The main, hypnotic bassline never really lets up throughout the song's six minute length, but the song gradually builds around it and gets louder as it moves towards a strange ending section with some wordless vocals from Reznor and crashes of dry synths. In contrast, The Idea of You is much more traditionally 'rock' with real drums courtesy of Dave Grohl (Nirvana; Foo Fighters; Them Crooked Vultures). He performed drums on many of the songs on With Teeth, so unsurprisingly this song has quite a bit in common with that album with more obvious guitar riffs and ringing piano melodies. Again, the punky feel returns, which is driven by Grohl's fast drumming, and Reznor's angry-sounding fast-paced vocals are extremely catchy. The EP's last song, Burning Bright (Field on Fire) is another droning number, but this time with more guitar courtesy of Dave Navarro (Jane's Addiction; Red Hot Chili Peppers). It is a strange song, with Reznor's rambling vocals often consigned to the background of the piece, but it has that chaotic and claustrophobic feel that characterised the band's early work. It does get more melodic as it goes through, with airy synths cutting through the mix as Reznor's ranty vocals take it up a notch. It ends in a mess of feedback, which is typically Nine Inch Nails, and this latest short taste of Reznor's work is extremely satisfying. While Not the Actual Events feels traditionally Nine Inch Nails and relies heavily on some of the band's more classic sounds without really pushing things further, it certainly feels like the start of a new era for Nine Inch Nails with more activity promised for next year.
The EP was released on 23rd December 2016 via The Null Corporation. Below is the band's promotional soundclip for Burning Bright (Field on Fire).