Words About Music
The Notwist “Close to the Glass”
I’m gonna be totally honest here. As an American living in Germany, there are not many German bands that I actually like. There’s the obligatory Kraftwerk, of course, as well as krautrock heavyweights like Can and Neu!, but beyond the short-lived kraut scene of the 70s, there’s not much Deutsch music I really like. I’m not really into Rammstein or Die Toten Hosen, and German-language hip-hop doesn’t strike me as enjoyable, so it’s pretty rare that I find a group like The Notwist that makes superbly interesting music and just so happens to be from Germany. While the group has been around for 25 years by now, they didn’t really hit the American indie circuit until their beloved 2002 album “Neon Golden,” which sounds like it predicts Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” and The National’s “Boxer” simultaneously. The dark-tinged indie rock group uses glitchy electronics and moody atmospheres in ways that should make any middle-period Radiohead fan squirm with glee. “Close to the Glass” is the group’s first album in six years and their first for American label Sub Pop, and with it they’ve taken their current sound to excellent places.
Though I’ve not heard every album The Notwist has ever released, I can say without any doubts that “Close to the Glass” is my favorite among those I have heard. It has an incredible fluidity that makes this feel more like an album than it does a collection of songs. All the songs are united under similar textures and grooves that give this album a sense of purpose rather than a sense of lacking. And even without the context of the album a lot of these songs are incredible stand-alones, be it the glitchy beat of “From One Wrong Place To The Next” or the surprisingly shoegazey “Five Hour Drive” or the soft ambience of “Lineri.”
While the band chooses not to say much lyrically on this album, singer Markus Acher is still a heavy presence on a handful of these tracks. His soft voice fits in perfectly with the mostly easygoing instrumentation and provides some great choruses if need be. I can’t stress enough that The Notwist is a band whose tone, mood, and texture matters more than the lyrical content. The output matters more to me personally than the input, especially when the band creates such a consistent record.
It’s rare that you see a band put out something so good this far into their career, especially one that relies heavily on synthesizers and electronics. But “Close to the Glass,” The Notwist’s 8th album, proves that age isn’t always a good indicator of quality. This set of songs is complex, layered, and put together in just the right order. It may sound a bit too robotic for some people especially considering Acher’s voice is a bit lacking in emotion, but for me it’s the perfect recipe for a great post-rock-leaning indietronica album.
SCORE – 8.4
FAVORITE TRACKS – Signals, Close to the Glass, Kong, Into Another Tune, Casino, From One Wrong Place To The Next, Seven Hour Drive, Run Run Run, Lineri, They Follow Me