13 & God
On paper, the collision of a highly-refined German electronic pop band and a group of avant garde hip-hop artists might seem like a bit of a trainwreck, but 13 & God proves with their debut release (and a great EP that preceded it) that sometimes odd pairings work. As the tale is told, a tourbus carrying both The Notwist and Themselves (Doseone, Jel & Dax) broke down (apparently in an impressive, firey way) on their joint tour. During the hiatus in which dates were cancelled and much personal and musical information was exchanged, the idea for the two groups working together on one release was hatched and soon afterwards demos started flying back and forth across the Atlantic.
One final session found Themselves flying over to Germany for a three-week session of hardcore jamming and recording, and the result is this release. Although one might assume that the resulting music would sound like something almost alien, the release is actually rather close to what one might expect given the two contributing parties. The Notwist contributions are all there and recognizable as understated but crisp programming mingles with gentle melodies while some tracks show a bit more of a hip-hop influence in production. Themselves are their usual selves, spitting out the expected bizarre lyrical turns that actually work quite well with the instrumentation, and their are a number of standouts from the sextet.
"Men Of Station" is the track that graced the debut EP from the group (the first single, if you will) and it basically sounds like a Notwist track as soft synth melodies and vocals from Markus Acher float over a punctual rhythm section. The choruses of the track are highlighted by the bizarro-chorus of Themselves and it's only then that they even make their presence known. "Ghostwork" is sort of the opposite of the previous track as Themselves take the forefront with their pitter-patter vocal stylings as quiet piano melodies and clicky beats soon morph into chunky hip-hop flavored IDM backings.
Even when Themselves don't contribute more direct vocals, tracks take a definite turn away from what one would expect from The Notwist solo. "Perfect Speed" cracks with sharp beats and super dirty synths that provide a nice contrast to the soft vocals of Acker while "If" sounds like a fairly normal understated Notwist track with blipping sample pings and just enough sharp edges to throw it off a bit. In all, one has to give both groups some serious marks for bridging their two rather wildly-varied styles together and doing a rather amazing job of it in the process. Not all of the tracks on the release hit their mark, but the adventurous release is far more interesting than a lot of what I've heard this year. Fans of each respective artist may scratch their head a bit when first hearing 13 & God, but it will mostly make sense after awhile. If it doesn't, it's probably not supposed to.