The Notwist Devil, You & Me Review

Released 2008.  

BBC Review

A masterpiece of electronic songcraft.

Paul Clarke 2008

All the qualities that made The Notwist's 2002 album, Neon Golden, such a masterpiece of electronic songcraft can be found again on the belated follow-up. It's filled once more with intricate experimental sounds which sometimes seem as thick and intertwining as the undergrowth in the forests of their native Bavaria.

In fact, at first the more analytically-minded listener might find it difficult to actually see the wood for the trees. For so elaborate are many of the tracks that there's the temptation to be distracted by the details, such as the way the glitchy beats bubble through the strings of 20 piece avant-garde jazz ensemble Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra on Where In This World, or furrow your brow with concentration trying to work out whether the guitar is a loop played backwards on Sleep, whilst treated flute and xylophone chimes rise like mist. But when you stand back, stop squinting and see the bigger picture two things become apparent: One is that the production, a patchwork of different sounds though it may be, certainly isn't a case of throwing the kitchen sink in. Even when a track changes form as many times as On Planet Off, which begins with a slightly Americana-sounding guitar before ominous echoes and clanks precipitate a midsection which melts into something that could almost be Autechre, it all seems to flow together quite naturally. Yet the second and most crucial fact is that the sonic trickery isn't there to distract attention from any lack in the actual songwriting either.

For Markus Acher's voice is as honest and direct as that of a classic bluesman, his lyrics of love and loss as simple and universal as the tracks are complex and esoteric, and when he sings ''I won’t sing in algebra'' on Alphabet he gets right to the heart of what makes The Notwist so special. Because whilst the music may sometimes require some working out, the words and emotions make immediate sense, and combined together add up to much more than the sum of their parts.

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