The Notwist prove that there's still plenty of gas left in their creative tanks
If nothing else, 'Close to the Glass' proves that The Notwist are more than capable of overcoming their own legend. Quite frankly though it does so much more than that, it's a triumph!
The Notwist – Close to the Glass (24/02/14 via City Slang)It's been 6 years since The Notwist released an official album and 12 since what is considered to be their definitive statement ('Neon Golden'). As such, a perhaps unfair burden of expectation falls on 'Close to the Glass', a burden it carries with ease. It's not another 'Neon Golden', but it is a beautiful record that deserves a look in from both the German indie legends fans and newcomers alike. It's certainly not as immediate as the bands most famous work but it's a far more complicated affair that tugs at different heart strings in a more refined, less obvious way. The Notwist began life more than 2 decades ago as a hardcore punk band and spent 4 albums and 10 years finding their own unique sound before the struck gold with the aptly titled Neon Golden in 2002. The record was a quietly influential affair that took the left-field electronica of Radiohead's 'Kid A' and supplemented it with some bonafide pop hooks. The aggression of their past lives had all but melted away. 'Close to the Glass' sees the quartet rediscovering some of that youthful angst, only without as much distortion. The stuttering 'glitchtronica' of the opening 'Signals' is a good reference point to use when discussing the album as a whole. Complicated, heavily manipulated beats (think the Anticon collective without the industrial backbone) and sparse vocals are complimented by melancholy cello scrapings, energetic, bubbly synths and a general sense of unease. It's all surprisingly catchy though and not once does it ever feel like The Notwist are being oblique for the sake of being oblique. The title track follows suit with some incredibly atonal bass and ghostly vocals, only this time with a little more of an organic vibe. In fact the entire album has an oddly 'natural' feel to it, despite the fact that there's so much electronic orchestration. If 'Neon Golden' was like The Notwist giving us their 'Kid A' then this is their 'King of Limbs' (I swear that's it for the Radiohead comparisons). This more 'natural' vibe even lends itself to a few songs that could technically be considered 'pop' songs. 'Kong' for example sounds like a long last Grandaddy song (I couldn't possibly pay a higher compliment than that) and if it wasn't for the discordant feedback, 'Seven Hour Drive' could almost be a Deathcab For Cutie cut. For every moment of relatively straight-forward clarity though there are at least two less conventional but no less endearing experiments in electronic minimalism such as 'Into Another Tune' and 'Run Run Run'. The line is drawn for real though on the 9 minute long instrumental dirge 'Lineri'. In lesser hands a track such as this could come across as a needless indulgence but the manner in which it builds a mood via subtle repetition and strange, backwards guitars is incredibly absorbing. It's probably the least exciting thing here but it works in the context of the album as a whole, a whole that concludes in a typically downcast fashion with the forlorn 'They Follow Me'. Close to the Glass is one of those albums that deserves, nay
needs to be listened to as a complete body of work and is perhaps the strongest document the Notwist have put out in over a decade, including their wonderful '13 & God' collaboration with Clouddead. If you only own one Notwist record (
that one) it's time to add another to your collection!