Album Reviews

13 & God – Own Your Ghost

(Alien Transistor) UK release date: 9 May 2011

A long six years after the debut from this unlikely collaboration between various members of the Anticon collective (including Doseone, Jel and Dax Pierson) and German indie-meets-electronica group The Notwist, a follow-up has emerged. In their respective projects, the Anticon group and The Notwist have produced some of the most acclaimed, if sometimes divisive, music of the past two decades. The Notwist’s Neon Golden remains a major piece of work, arguably under-appreciated here in the UK. Boom Bip and Doseone‘s The Circle and the albums released under the names Clouddead and Subtle are all richly imaginative, thoroughly distinctive pieces of work. It’s perhaps surprising, therefore, that the 13 & God project has had a more limited impact.

Actually, the juxtaposition of Doseone’s stream of consciousness nasal rapping and the melancholia of the German group works surprisingly well. Whilst the first album was wildly unpredictable and often quite dark in tone, Own Your Ghost is a little more accessible. Either that, or it’s simply that the manic, unstoppable word-flow from Doseone is now less startling with familiarity and The Notwist continue to grow more melodic with age. Armored Scarves ends in chanting that is infectious and almost uplifting. Oldage resembles The Cure in one of their more chart-friendly moments, whilst Janu Are has a captivating, brilliantly constructed groove. Much more is made here of the effective contrast between The Notwist’s nimble melodies and the harsh quality of Doseone’s rapping.

Somehow, none of this makes Own Your Ghost any less fascinating or inventive. It is full of peculiar, otherworldly sounds and is artfully produced and arranged throughout. If this may be the closest the Anticon collective get to making a pure pop record, it’s still refreshingly warped and disjointed. There are still plenty of strange, ghostly, uncompromising moments to keep returning admirers happy. The unsettling mix of folk strum and dissonant horns on Death Minor is particularly effective. Sure As Debt rides in on a dancehall rhythm worthy of The Bug or Chrissy Murderbot. The mechanistic krautrock of Et Tu is persistently punctuated by a range of disorientating sounds and effects.

When acts attempt to make albums as varied and multifaceted as Own Your Ghost undoubtedly is, it can sometimes go horribly wrong. Here, both parts of the collaboration seem to be working at the top of their game – and almost every stylistic detour is handled with understanding and confidence. Also, it helps considerably that both acts have immediately identifiable stylistic traits. Doseone’s voice may not be to all tastes, but is does provide a coherent thread throughout the album, not least in his wayward, surreal, often incomprehensible lyrics. Sometimes it seems as if it does not even matter what it all means, if anything, it’s just a pure delight to hear how the words trip off his tongue. The Notwist’s combination of bucolic strum and subtle electronic intervention remains resiliently superior and imaginative. Own Your Ghost is a brilliantly conceived work, deserving of much more attention in the UK.

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13 & God – Own Your Ghost