Looking at the six years between The Devil, You + Me, the newest release from the Notwist, and Neon Golden, the release that threw them into American ears, leaves a deceiving impression. Markus Acher and Michael Acher have been working. Not for the Notwist, exactly, but for projects that are deceptively similar to their ambient electronic pop. There was 2004’s Faking the Books from Lali Puna, Markus’ side project, 2005’s 13 & God, a Notwist collaboration with Anticon rappers Themselves, and 2006’s Notes and the Like from Ms. John Soda, Michael’s side project. But these releases increased the appetite for a new Notwist album more often than they satisfied it.
It’s with much delight, then, that The Devil, You + Me easily picks up where Neon Golden left off. Some of the melodies even sound pieced together from remainders of the album that came before it; not in a lazy, “we’ve heard this all before” fashion, but like a fragmented memory nagging you to complete it.
The Notwist don’t really break from what worked so well last time. The Devil, You + Me features the same sort of smudged, smushed, scraping electronics, at times soft and warm, at others industrial and cold. The lyrical themes are somewhat similar, as well, bouncing back and forth between isolation (“I’m alone at last / with every other me”) and endearment (“the sun was up all night / and I put my arms around you / to hold you tight / on and on and on and on”).
The Notwist, “Gloomy Planets” (download)
There are a couple tracks that sound decidedly different. The opener, “Good Lies,” feels a bit more aggressive and upfront than anything from Neon Golden, and even steps away from electronics for a bit, focusing on the more organic sounding instruments. “Gloomy Planets” is more guitar-centric, as well, more delicate, but also more cheerful. But the changes are small enough that they sound like the natural course of things — and, after all,Â the Notwist did start out as a grunge metal and post rock group before finding themselves where they are now.
Album closer “Gone Gone Gone” uses one of those so familiar you can hear the next note melodies, and it combines with Markus Acher’s voice in the most comforting way, as he coos, “We’ll never let you go / this far alone.” And thank god it’s so soothing – because if we’re going to spend another six years waiting, it’s better to be calm while we do so.