13 & God
Wed Sept 28
1 SW 3rd
It's not just politics that make unlikely bedfellows—often musicians open their sleepy eyes to the shock of a strange, doe-eyed consort beside them. Case in point: the potentially unholy union of similarly acclaimed bands the Notwist and Themselves.
The Notwist are a crusty German hardcore band turned electronic pop explorers. Themselves are a Berkeley-based experimental hiphop act and part of the far-reaching stable of Anticon artists. While on the surface similarities between the two bands are few and far between, both tend to restlessly tug at the genres that already only loosely contain them. While playing a series of dates together a year ago, a chance set of micro disasters found the bands stranded together in the heart of a harsh Canadian winter. Out of those testing circumstances a brotherly bond was formed, and the seed of an unusual musical pairing was planted.
Over the next year the two bands began working together as 13 & God, and thanks to international mail and some brief taping encounters, the bands found themselves with a moody and sophisticated piece of work.
Hanging over the album cover's backlit David Lynchian curtains, their cryptic moniker quickly sets the stage for what's to come for the self-titled collaboration. The opening track, "Low Heaven," is a fresh slice of chamber hiphop, conjuring images of Air and Béla Bartók in a sedated shoving match. Further down the path, "Perfect Speed" delivers exactly what it claims to, as the band's Kraut half seizes the reins for four foolproof minutes of gurgling synth pop.
All the artists involved are careful not to cram too much down the listener's throat, and that low-key approach makes all the cross-genre pollination go down smooth as honey. In fact, the only thing that would keep this record from being as accessible to your NPR-listening uncle as your troubled teen goth sister is the love-it-or-hate-it nasal vocal delivery of Themselves' Doseone. Overall though, the offspring of this odd couple has popped out already full-grown and gives any of the two bands' previous works a run for their money.