13 & God: 13 & God
Anticon/Alien Transistor

13 & God: Men of Station
Anticon/Alien Transistor

If the curious name 13 & God is unfamiliar, its six members aren't: Anticon's themselves (rapper Adam “doseone” Drucker, beatsmith Jeffery “jel” Logan, plus keyboardist Dax “dax” Pierson) paired with the Notwist's Martin Gretschmann and brothers Markus and Micha Acher. How did such a motley collective converge? They first met when themselves, touring behind their sophomore outing The No Music, hooked up with Markus in Germany. Deciding to hit the road for a joint 2004 tour, a bus fire stranded the groups' members at a hotel for a two-day layover, which in turn jump-started the collaboration. They later gathered in Weilheim for seventeen days to record the album, with guests like Lali Puna's Valerie Trebeljahr and Ms. John Soda's Stefanie Böhm stopping by.

All background aside, how well does the Notwist's melodically polished glitch-pop jibe with themselves' chaotically twisted rap and hip-hop stylings? Firstly, your impression of the album will likely be skewed by your feelings for the originating groups: a Notwist fan may favour the songs most free of themselves' presence (“Men of Station,” a stately slice of melancholy acoustic pop and arguably the album's best song, could pass for the Notwist alone) and will probably judge the album less satisfying than 2002's Neon Golden; a themselves fan, on the other hand, may find the album a little too refined or polite. Your reaction will also depend on how much you cotton to the nasal, almost cartoon-like quality of themselves' voices (like those heard in “Tin Strong” and “Ghostwork”). During mournful, string-laden moments in “Superman On Ice,” I'll confess I found myself thinking how much better the song might've been had Acher's plaintive singing been used in place of the less effective voice assemblage.

Some songs inspire the game 'spot the band' too, such that a track like “Perfect Speed” gets split into Notwist (the plucked acoustic guitar picking and Acher's vocal) and Anticon (the pumping, head-nodding pulse) elements. The melancholy “Soft Atlas,” on the other hand, integrates the groups' styles much more convincingly, with a distinctive cello, piano, and vibes arrangement a memorable base for the voices' looping rap (“Without a universal law there is no gravity / Without no gravity there is no atmosphere / Without an atmosphere there's no chance at life / I don't exist”). At day's end, 13 & God's members deserve credit for at least attempting something fresh and unexpected, even if the results don't always totally satisfy.

Released before the album, the EP includes the album's two best songs (“Men Of Station” and “Soft Atlas”) plus remixes. Why? and Alias give “Into The Trees” a potent hallucinogenic lurch that would have found the song nestling comfortably amidst the album's other tracks. In “L'atlas Flexible/Von Gradleute,” Hrvatski conflates “Soft Atlas” and “Men of Station” into a single mix but overhauls them so severely the originals are almost unrecognizable, with Acher's “Men of Station” vocal, for example, amped up to better keep pace with the fulminating breaks roaring beneath it.

April 2005