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The Notwist: Close To The Glass


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They may sing in English, but it’s hard to think of another band that sounds as German as The Notwist. More so than Kraftwerk’s playful proto-techno or even the driving rhythms and proggy arrangements of what we now know as “Krautrock”, the music made by Markus Acher and company is precise, mechanical, clinical, solid; not the most complimentary of adjectives, admittedly, but when their recorded output is as finely-tuned and beautifully engineered as a brand new BMW, it’s clear that such descriptions are well-intended. A quarter century after Acher and his brother Michael founded the group in Weilheim, seventh studio album Close To The Glass finds The Notwist restlessly kicking the walls of their comfort zone, experimenting in the studio with multi-instrumentalist Martin Gretchmann not only playing but also processing and manipulating his bandmates’ performances even as they recorded them, and yet somehow the resulting twelve songs still emerge sounding like every tiny detail was mapped out beforehand using some kind of algorithmic program. As usual, machine-like rhythms play a major role, with “Signals” spilling haywire electronics over a crunchy hip hop beat and the heavily percussive title track using what sound like pitch-bent hand drums to accent its sinister, twisting melody; “Run Run Run”’s clanking metallic electro is a hefty gut-punch, whilst “Into Another Tune”, with its hypnotic coda, is the kind of Can impersonation Radiohead could only ever dream of pulling off. The shoegaze squall of “Seven Hour Drive” and acoustic ballad “Casino” serve as timely reminders of the band’s early guitar-rock outings, but it’s “Kong” that stands out here: an organ-driven power-pop gem set against a propulsive Dinger-beat, Acher recalling his family home being flooded when he was a child and wishing that superheroes would fly in and carry them to safety, a hint of emotion almost – almost! – breaking the surface of his typically deadpan vocal. Indeed, whilst The Notwist’s music can sometimes come across as a little cold, there’s a fuzzy glow to much of Close To The Glass that suggest these earnest sonic scientists have casually and without fanfare synthesized the formula for perfect experimental pop. It may not feel as groundbreaking as their bona fide classic Neon Golden did on release twelve years ago, but in terms of quality and consistency Close To The Glass is every bit as good. How very German.

Close To The Glass is out February 24/ 25 via City Slang/ Sub Pop; check out the video for “Kong” below.
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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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