Without any good reason we haven’t listened to new work from The Notwist for 20 years now. Since the critically acclaimed Neon Golden (2002) we neglected this versatile German indietronica group, so shame on us. Nevertheless we aim to better our lives with the eighth studio release of the Acher brothers which is called Vertigo Days.
After a short haunting tribal lead in Vertigo Days introvertly starts off with Into Love/Stars. Although the title made me think of hooky The Stars are Projectors by Modest Mouse for a sec it’s clear that this track holds a different kind of emotion. Light eletronica sets a quiet atmosphere but is brought to life after percussion is geared up and even sparkles up near the ending. It’s no surprise that The Notwist masters this kind of organic musical evolution but where Neon Golden finds its greatness in productional coherence Vertigo Days does the same as a patchwork of ambient, indie, kraut and neo-psychedelia.
On Exit Strategy To Myself the band immediately checks the kraut rock box. Compact drumming, a loose guitar and urgent base bring in that familiar groove which would easily fit in the West-German clubscene of the 70s. As Acher’s vocals hypnotically break up and rebuild into a timid chant the loose guitars built towards an ending with some strong distortion. Nicely enough the ending of Exit Strategy To Myself serves as a loud fade into a few songs that don’t feel that new at all. Where To Find Me and Loose Ends sound like the music The Notwist made 20 years ago. Both are delightful but if it wasn’t for the swirling Ship that is placed in between, both tracks could be skippable. On Ship we hear the first of Vertigo Days’ many collaborators. In a duet with Markus Archer, Tenniscoats singer Saya Ueno works around a wonderful slightly detuned synthline.
Not long after Saya Ueno all the other guests give acte de présence as well. First one is clarinetist Angel Bat Dawid who lights up Into the Ice Age with a swirling performance. The Archer brothers also bring in Ben LaMar Gay for a tender contribtion to Oh Sweet Fire while Juana Molina surrounds herself with lively grooves of Al Sur. Among all the guests there is enough room for The Notwist vintage elegance to shine through. Sans Soleil is an example of how subtle instrumentation can still sound big. More wonderful is the slow unfolding Night’s Too Dark which is a small lullaby that floats between the half-light and the fear of darkness. During the directly following interlude *stars* a soothing sounding comfort closes off. The Archer brothers seem to say that It’s never really dark, so why be afraid? On the closing track Into Love Again the band goes full circle. Together with Saya Ueno’s colorful brass band Zayaendo they give Vertigo Days a satisfying ending.
As said Vertigo Days is a great patchwork of various works. The Notwist pieced all of this diversity together into a holistic vibe that is centred around the band’s trademark sound. Although a few tracks that stand out, like Exit Strategy To Myself, Into the Ice Age or Night’s Too Dark the album is only really engaging if you play from front to back. So just put in the full 50 minutes every now and then and we promise it will stick to you for at least the rest of the year.
Label: Morr, 2021
- Al Norte (1:00)
- Into Love / Stars (5:44)
- Exit Strategy to Myself (3:08)
- Where You Find Me (2:31)
- Ship (ft. Saya) (4:04)
- Loose Ends (5:31)
- Into the Ice Age (ft. Angel Bat Dawid) (6:21)
- Oh Sweet Fire (ft. Ben LaMar Gay) (3:50)
- Ghost (1:23)
- Sans Soleil (3:16)
- Night‘s Too Dark (2:55)
- *Stars* (1:10)
- Al Sur (ft. Juana Molina) (3:18)
- Into Love Again (ft. Zayaendo) (5:08)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 180321