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  Neon Golden  
  The Notwist  
  City Slang (initial German release) to be out on Domino USA  
Release Date:
  14.January.2002, with a US release date at the end of February.2003  
Reviewed by:

This is another one of those albums that i have been hearing quite a lot about. So i tracked down a copy and plopped it into the CD player. On first listen, i guessed that The Notwist were a pleasant Indie pop band from one of those corn states in the middle of our country. The vocalist sings with a slightly disaffected and bored twinge in his voice, and that voice is slightly nasally. Very midwestern, or so it seems.....

Imagine my surprise when i go do research for this review and learn that the singer's name is Markus Acher and he is from Munich. And i'm not talking Munich, North Dakota either, i mean München, Deutschland. Oh, and The Notwist originally formed as a hardcore band in the late 80's, yet now they make very pleasant indie pop that combines rock,, and IDM into a fascinating fusion.


But seriously -- this is a fascinating album. The Notwist are a four piece, and German as i have just mentioned. All four members are quite competent at what they do, which includes the standard rock 4-piece of drums, bass, guitar, and voice, along with banjo, keyboards, and laptops. They blend these differing sounds in a way which i honestly find fresh and interesting. And they have a real knack for writing catchy melodies! That'll take them far in my book.

This album has laptop sounds, and even if you hate that stuff i still think you'll find something to like here. And if you are an IDM fan and find the notion of using real instruments to be willfully anacronistic, then there is still stuff here for you. And if you are one of the vast majority of people that don't like harsh and/or noisy music, then The Notwist have you covered.

It's something for everyone.

There are 10 songs here, and 4 of them (at least) stand out as wonderful. To begin with, One Step Inside Doesn't Mean You'll Understand kicks the album off with a bit of laptopy beats combined with real drums and keyboards. It's a very nice and catchy tune, and the combination of organic instruments with digital sounds sort of set the stage for the rest of the album.

In the middle of the album, however, is a two song set that stuns me. First you have One With the Freaks, which starts off as an amusing little IDM track with glitches and pops, and then, halfway through, the guitar kicks in with power chords and the drummer starts beating away at his kit. And suddenly, just when you least expect it, The Notwist ROCK OUT. However, there are still other little laptopy things going on in the background behind the rock. There are so many layers to this song that i am just amazed.

And as One With The Freaks fades out, Neon Golden starts up, with sparse banjo and droning steel guitar. This song sounds southern in the same way that Songs:Ohia do -- it captures a melancholy and rural mood. This pseudo-country meanders along for about 4 minues accompanied by brushed drumming and Acher's sad voice. At the end, however it disintigrates into an electronically mangled jam. I really like this juxtaposition.

And finally, the album ends with Consequence, which is a lovely indie pop song with faint electronic undertones, groovey druming, and melodic guitars. But Acher is the one who shines here, singing the line "you're not in this movie, you're not in this song". It's a great tune, with wonderful melodies and intelligent lyrics.

Really, there is nothing not to like on this album. It's all well-played and well conceptualized, and it bends musical genres to suit the bands' will, rather than them being constrained by genre.

Neon Golden was officially released last year in Germany by City Slang, however, The Notwist's website indicates that it has been picked up by Domino USA for a domestic release at the end of February. And look for them to tour The States this year as well.

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