click-clack industrial with a much lighter, much more subtle touch than Mr. Reznor or any
of his American counterparts will ever know. The Notwist pull themselves away from their
German colleagues by infusing a clearly industrial, mechanical rock sound with something
that distinctively resembles a heart -- an uncomfortable human trait that was always
distantly lacking from other Krautrock outfits. They say they pay homage to London '80s
synth-pop/new wave darlings Talk Talk, but sonically, they more closely resemble American
post-punks like Sonic Youth. And then there's the American jazz influence, which is
inflected throughout the instrumental tracks, such as the horn-laced "Moron."
The basic recipe consists of sampled rhythm tracks full of electronic blips, bleeps,
snaps, pops and odd-sounding farts. Next, layer over a slacker-styled jangle-pop guitar,
the occasional keyboard and Markus Acher's rather droll, flat and careless vocals. As you
might imagine, the lyrics can be stark, oblique. On "Chemicals," the CD's
high-water mark, Acher almost laments, "Chemicals will hit you / Chemicals will knock
you down." On the haunting, hip-hoppish "No Encores," Acher groans, "but
you've never known me," like someone who's trying convince himself that he's better
off without her. Unlike other recent underground CDs that include a number of
instrumentals, the Notwist non-vocal numbers are always interesting, thanks to a
remarkable brass line, chiming vibraphone or funky kick drum that reminds me of the best
tracks by 18th Dye. It's all very moody, very atmospheric and very, very good.
Copyright © 1999 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.