The Notwist: The Devil, You + Me

Music Reviews The Notwist
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The Notwist: The Devil, You + Me

Long-awaited comeback album makes good on promise of Neon Golden

Germany’s Notwist spent the 1990s finding its feet in grunge-influenced metal, indie rock and electro-jazz.

2002’s Neon Golden featured a nearly perfect blend of indie rock, chamber music and seething electronics. Today, that breakthrough album sounds like a smarter, more stoic precursor to The Postal Service. At the time, though, it simply sounded amazing, creating a sonically austere world that made its singularity burn even brighter.Could lightning strike twice?

The Devil leads with a red herring. “Good Lies” is driven by unfussy guitars and drums. Acher’s simple vocal melodies infiltrate the brain, but the relatively mundane surroundings may make afficionados worry that The Notwist has forsaken its baroque leanings for commonplace indie rock.

This quickly proves untrue: The Devil easily equals Neon Golden, and stripped-down songs like “Good Lies” take on an uncanny power in the roilling context of the album proper. This is lightning-seamed cloud music, with digital dissonance and strings hovering over craggy, pop-industrial beatscapes. “On Planet Off” is pinioned by a slithering loop of ominous piano and echoing steel drums. On “Where in the World,” a pressurized trip-hop beat slips out of celestial string flurries. This is electro-pop with neoclassical ambitions, with the immediacy of the former and grandeur of the latter.

Acher has a light touch, repeating simple phrases and subtle, smeared blue notes. As a lyricist, he’s a master of the soft sell, allowing his enigmas to carry their own weight. This album approaches hope and despair with the same sweet, deceptively aloof tone.