By Sasha Frere-Jones for The New Yorker on March 19, 2007

Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor’s one-man band, will soon release a new album called “Year Zero.” For now, though, you can participate in the accompanying alternate-reality game. Earlier this year, a fan noticed that letters on the back of a N.I.N. tour T-shirt formed the words “I am trying to believe.” Adding “.com” to the end of this phrase brought up a Web site with information about a drug called Parepin, which had allegedly been released into the water supply of Orlando, either to protect the residents from bioterrorism or to brainwash them. Reznor and his marketing team add new Web sites every week or so, each describing a different part of an increasingly dark future. Much is basic conspiracy theory, but the methods have been ingenious. Several songs from “Year Zero” were left on U.S.B. drives in the bathrooms of venues hosting N.I.N. shows. The drives also contained digital noises that decoded into phone numbers or yielded visual waveforms with the image of a creepy giant hand. Though I still prefer the TV show “Lost,” there are few reasons to reject the kicks of this decidedly commercial art form. ♦

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