Posted by: Ryan Allen on June 23, 2008 at 11:00 am

The Notwist, The Devil, You + Me (Domino Records, 2008)

Listen: “Boneless”

Anyone familiar with early-career shredders like Nook and 12 may have been slightly shocked when the Notwist — Germany’s Radiohead? — moved toward more electronic landscapes on 1998′s Shrink and 2002′s Neon Golden. But, that’s the plus side to being a band on the fringe: You can change your sound whenever it strikes you, and then you watch as the rest of the world plays catch-up. At least that was the case before the success of Neon Golden; before every indie rocker salivating over Pitchfork’s 9.0 Club got a hold of it. Now, a band that has made their records in relative obscurity is all of a sudden hoisted into the limelight, and like every good band stuck in the hype engine, an avalanche of expectation is thrown on their shoulders. So what’s a band to do? The Notwist decided it’d be a good idea to hide out for about six years, rearing their head occasionally to issue weird hip-hop projects (releasing the 13 & God project, a collabo with Anticon rappers Themselves, in 2005), and solo albums (Notwist programmer Martin Gretschmann’s Console project).

Listening to the new The Devil, You + Me, it seems that the Notwist contracted a mad case of the “chills” in their six-year hiatus. Softer, gentler, and laden with pillows of cushy electronics, subtle percussion, and velvety acoustic guitar, the new Notwist couldn’t be further away from the old one if they tried. At first, with the clanging open chords, subtle keyboard blips, and mid-tempo propulsion of opener “Good Lies,” it seems like a natural progression from Neon Golden. But, navigate more, and the hard hitting drums of their Golden years dissipates, replaced by drum machine glitch (“Where in this World,” “Sleep”…actually almost every song) and woozy atmospherics. Only on songs like “Gravity” and “Boneless” do the tempos pick up; still, the attack is more laid back. But without the onslaught of guitars and electro buzz, the melodies reveal themselves to be intoxicating, and the breathing room they give these sleepy jams show an impressive amount of restraint.

Fans of 12‘s muscle or Neon Golden‘s peppy electro-jangle may be disappointed with The Devil‘s slight detour into down-tempo pop, but, you’ve gotta spend some time, love. If you do, a gentle giant will emerge, as The Devil, You + Me reveals itself as a welcome addition to an adventurous band’s elegant catalogue. — Ryan Allen

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