The Notwist The Devil, You + Me(City Slang) Buy it from Insound
"Lets just imitate the real until we find a better one". Whilst an admirable sentiment on opening song Good Lies, it feels a little close to home on the latest offering from Munich's Notwist, still trying to hit the heights of their last full length album Neon Golden. Since then their career has been mostly in EPs and remixes and it still feels very bitty, like The Devil, You + Me imitates perhaps a collection of Neon Golden b-sides and the Notwist haven't quite found a new real.
After a good handful of listens nothing hugely sticks and it isn't quite clear what they're aiming for. Markus Acher's voice has less of a crackling, floating affect now and more the slightly weak dialling tone of the song. Just sort of always…..there. And a bit irritating. The album apparently features the Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra – an avant-classical orchestra founded by young Berlin-based chamber musicians. If only you got a chance to really hear them. With songs often really missing the skittering beats of previous work it does tend to give the tracks an underdeveloped and curtailed feel, as if the album never quite got into the producers hands. It is certainly a more mellow affair with less of their previous excellent head bopping clicks and glitches. It feels a darker album, more claustrophobic, bleak and ambient, and on songs such as On Planet Off this is welcome. But it does sound like they've sat in just a few too many dark rooms and empty car parks and forgot to go clubbing. You feel less of a need to bounce your knee to it than previous albums and more of a need to get on with another job, leaving this to play in the background. Maybe it'd sound better stoned.
The album's highlights include Gloomy Planets, a quick acoustic repetition, and Alphabet, which veers back towards the marriage of instrumentation and electronica that was so perfectly executed on Neon Golden, with circling drum rolls underpinning it. Title track The Devil, You & Me is even beginning to take on Sigur Ros-esque bass lines (yes, that's how ambient). Gravity could have redeemed the album from being slightly forgettable if it would just have broken into the harder, faster finale that it desperately needed. Sleep is sweet but just too sleepy. A rickety electric guitar crackles menacingly throughout the gloriously dark, and stand out track, On Planet Off, the beat purring in and out, reminiscent of, or perhaps influenced by, some of the work Notwist have contributed to their collaborative 13 & God project.
However, even when the Notwist are at their most bleak, recent European tours suggests this new material stands up a lot better live than perhaps it does recorded. So maybe just get stoned in an empty car park and then imagine them live.