13 & God: Doseone (vocals, synthesizer, sampler); Jel, Markus Acher, Micha Acher, Dax Pierson, Martin Gretschmann.
Additional personnel: Valerie Trebeljahr, Steffi Bohm (vocals); Pedestrian, Why?.
Though it looks somewhat better on paper than it sounds as a completed album, 13 & God is a compelling experiment of indie collaboration. Like so many projects of its nature, this self-titled album began with tapes and discs traded in the mail between artists. Eventually the two parties, Germany's glitchy electronic rockers the Notwist and U.S. left-field hip-hoppers Themselves, assembled together in Germany to recorded the finishing touches that would glue the fragments and puzzle pieces together. The finished piece is a decidedly dark and murky musical excursion into a realm of percolating electronics, moody jazz elements, bizarre raps, ethereal acoustic guitars, and sad pianos. As would be expected, some tracks sound untouched by one-half of the collaborators. "Men of Station" comes across like a Neon Golden B-side, and it's difficult to understand what Themselves could have added, because it contains every earmark of the Notwist but nothing more. Likewise, "Ghostwork" feels like a typical offering from Doseone and crew, with perhaps just a scattering of xylophone and a skittering sampler contributed by the Acher brothers. Thus, it's likely that fans of either band might appreciate only half of the album, as the artists' musical oeuvres are so different. But while some of the album feels like a compilation of the two bands, truly collaborative songs where creative input seems evenly spread, such as "Perfect Speed," present something fresh and innovative. Indeed, there are moments such as "Tin Strong" and "Walk" that come across as so musically alien in outright genre-splicing that a listener would be hard-pressed to describe just what musical style is being heard. Is it quirky underground rap, ambient electronica, moody industrial dirge, or John Cage-style experimentation? It is likely that fans of the Notwist's traditional melodies might find many of these ten songs a difficult listen, and it's equally likely that anyone enamored with Themselves might not appreciate some of the album's wistful vocals and dreamy keyboards. While there's a sense that both artists went a bit too heavy on dark atmosphere, given that both usually inject more whimsy into their creations, 13 & God is still a consistently intriguing, frequently beautiful experiment that offers ample rewards with each new listen. ~ Tim DiGravina