Little has changed since the 2005 debut of 13 & God, a supergroup of sorts comprised of Germany's the Notwist and Oakland-based Adam "Doseone" Drucker, Jeffrey "Jel" Logan and Dax Pierson, who otherwise parade around as Themselves and a large chunk of innovative hip hop band Subtle. Much like the latter half's work with Subtle, in particular, the first record by 13 & God was a bit dreary, with Dose's lyrics more contemplative than the simpler wit and rhyme typical of rap, brought to a lesser degree of urgency by the Notwist's downtempo instrumentation. And this is characteristic of them, still, in 2011.
What has changed is that, just prior to the release of that first record, keyboardist Dax Pierson was paralyzed during a tour accident with Subtle—an event that would force him to go entirely digital as a musician (and, as he's previously blogged, as a music consumer). As a result, he's forced to play a less active role with respect to touring and collaborative recording. As a member of 13 & God, online communication has replaced the possibility of physically recording with the Notwist in Germany, and Pierson's voice has become his biggest asset. And yet, this hardly affects the record—not because his role was insignificant in the first place, but because 13 & God records feel very much like Notwist records with an added bit of thunder, and Dose’s nasal vocal spinning.
Whereas Subtle and Themselves can take on heavier beats, or even an angry, somewhat bitter political or anti-(fill in the blank) message hovering above and throughout Dose’s nerdy wordplay, the Notwist provide a more somber coolness—Themselves give a shit and then some; this isn’t so much the case here, and lyrics seem less a focal point this time around, although “You can’t get the eat out of death” is a line appearing on no fewer than three songs on Own Your Ghost.
But 13 & God are at their best when that coolness is broken; a hint of that Oakland magic begins to come through on “Janu Are,” where Markus Archer's unwavering coo-as-chorus is backed by a steady and toned-down tuba beat that almost reminds of a bass/clarinet hybrid. The low buildup of the record finally satisfies in its final four tracks, with “Death Minor,” a pure piece of noir and perhaps an update on Portishead’s “Wandering Star,” leading into “Sure as Debt,” an aggressive, bass-heavy dancehall-style track that serves as the album’s climax, and falling beautifully into “Beat On Us” and “Unyoung” (completed from a demo by Pierson). This record is perhaps not entirely consistent with itself, but it is consistent with the relationship between bands that 13 & God established on its debut. [Anticon]
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