The Notwist

Close To The Glass

Written by: TL on 01/03/2014 22:21:28

The review assignment of The Notwist's new album "Close To The Glass" was sold to me with a simple tagline of "hyped new indie rock" and a youtube player with the single "Kong". Fair enough, but half a dozen listens and five minutes of wikipedia research later, let's just say that information is a tad off the mark. First there's the "new" part, because this German quartet have in fact been around for over twenty years, the band forming all the way back in 1989 and with "Close To The Glass" they present their whopping eighth studio album. Readers cooler than me may know this already, but I walked into this one totally naively yet oh well, what time like the present to get into them?

Well, then there's the "indie rock" part, which is only partly on the money as well. "Kong" is a sneaky single in that sense, because the deceptively laid-back song with the endearing feel and the energetic, up-beat drive has a wide-eyed quality that sounds like it could have been on the first Clap Your Hands Say Yeah album, but already here we definitely exceed rock's conventional parametres with the sampled strings that herald the song's lengthy outro. And if you start the record from track one, the aptly titled "Signals" sounds most of all like blips on a sonar, yet combined with singer/guitarist Markus Acher's calm voice the track guides the listener safely onto a path of deep bass vibes that feels like you're following in Daft Punk's footsteps into the 'Grid' world of the Tron Legacy movie.

The bridge from the electronica here to the more familiar territories of "Kong" is the entirely trippy, pulsating beat of the title track, which has a hint of "capable of driving the listener mad" and does sort of overpower anything else that goes on in the track. Following the comparatively more conventional "Kong", "Into Another Tune" is back at it, building rhythmic tention under a tender vocal melody and a strong signature effect, eventually finding an exotic beat that guides its second half towards "Casino". Here though, it's a weird but efficient break from electronics that has my references lost somewhere between Kavinssky and Animal Collective, into a mostly acoustic song that starts out sounding almost like The Moldy Peaches. The lyrics here; "After life in a casino, we know that gambling is a joke, to say that I'm not here for money, is just another word for broke", are among the most striking on the album however, forming a close-up fixpoint to buoy the listener's attention on voyages through the record.

I'm resisting some temptation by not continuing the review merely going track by track, because while "Close To The Glass" is certainly the atmospheric kind of listen that you can doze off to, it is also a very cleverly arranged and sequenced listen, which progresses at a hypnotic pace that has the rare quality of letting the listener follow its developments seamlessly yet intriguingly, despite its arrangements getting carried away with strange noises more often than not and offering only three or four songs that could be considered 'singles' in a conventional sense. "Run Run Run" could be considered one such though, with its infectious repetition and impactful horn cacophony around the middle.

Having been taken by surprise by The Notwist, I haven't taken had the time to research and compare their considerable previous catalogue, but it speaks volumes of the levels of their abilities that "Close To The Glass" has managed to both puzzle and convince me, despite turning my initial expectations upside down. It's not a record I see myself coming back to often, and it does have the power to outlast my (admittedly puny) attention span (see the almost nine minutes of instrumentals in "Lineri") but it just has such a compelling ebb and flow between the digital and the organic that any occasion on which you do merit it a full spin will likely have you shaking your head to try and cast of its drowsy enchantment afterwards. Furthermore, hearing this stuff pulled off in a small or medium sized venue with almost no light effects and a considerable level of intoxication in the blood? That's an alluring and strangely danceable fantasy if you ask me.

Download: Kong, Casino, Run, Run, Run
For The Fans Of: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Animal Collective, Bombay Bicycle Club, Yo La Tengo

Release Date 25.02.2014
Sub Pop

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