Two years ago, I picked The Notwist's Neon Golden as my favorite album of the year. Although it wasn't anything that hadn't been done before, it was put together so well that it felt like a breakthrough and a breath of fresh air in a room full of artists trying to combine the best of both worlds (organic and electronic). It should come as no surprise that The Notwist haven't released much since that disc. With members of the group all playing in different bands (Tied And Tickled Trio, Ms John Soda, Lali Puna, etc, etc), time gets split and plans get put on hold.
Because there hasn't been any new material from the group in so long, it would be pretty easy to complain about this Different Cars And Trains EP, especially since it doesn't technically contain any new songs from the group (everything has been released elsewhere already). Mainly, the goal of this EP is to tide over some listeners by compiling some b-side import single tracks and rolling it out for a domestic price. Mission accomplished? Not really.
Even though I'm a huge fan of the group, I have to admit that the material on this EP is in large part lacking. The first two remixes ("Neon Golden" and "Pilot") by Console pull handy-dandy loops from the orignal tracks and turn them into fairly routine 4/4 tracks that work more for the dancefloor than casual listening. Even the solo work by Console (aka Martin Gretschmann) is less predictable. From there, we get the 'new' track of "Red Room," a very nice little track of soft electronics and subtle programming, and the dubby reworking of "Different Cars And Trains" by Loopspool.
Aha! I've saved the best for last, though (even though it arrives second-to-last on the actual CD). The defining moment of the CD, and the track that absolutely makes the 30-minute EP is the 8-minute epic of "This Room," a killer reworking by Four Tet and Manitoba that pulls only small parts of the original and turns them into an absolutely stunning synthesis of warm electronic pads, cut-up vocals and chopped-up hip hop beats. Would someone please convince these two friends that they need to make an album together already? I'm convinced it would split heads open everywhere, but until then we'll have to wait until they line up their schedules again. As for this EP, you need the one track mentioned directly above. The rest is passable icing.