The Notwist, with Jel – Mono, Glasgow, Sun 16 Mar 2014
The long-running German alt.rockers team up with the Californian hip hop electronicist for some alternative slacker delights
Given The Notwist’s (comparatively) recent move towards electronica, it’s not too surprising to see Jel join the long-running German alt.rockers on this European tour. The co-founder of alternative electronica/hip hop label Anticon (whose Alias has worked with The Notwist's Markus Acher previously), he’s carved a niche for himself as an artist who pummels his sampler relentlessly – where others may be content to programme a drum loop and let it run, Jel jabs at the buttons continuously, adding in sampled snatches of melody and his own rapped vocals over the top. Jel’s insistence on micro-managing the beat can leave it sputtering and overcrowded at times, but his lo-fi, tin can percussion effects and Californian drawl bring to mind the mid-90s alt.sounds of Eels and Beck, and like them, his rougher edges are loaded with slacker charm.
The Notwist aren’t a million miles away from this vibe themselves, sporting beards and t-shirts as they crowd onto the stage at Mono. There’s six of them in this touring line-up and, equipped as they are with keyboards, xylophones, turntables, samplers, drumkit, guitars and so on, it’s taken some Tetris-like arrangement skills to make sure they all fit onstage. Their lo-fi stylings and Acher’s unfussy, everyman vocals come to the fore in the first half of the set, which is replete with indie-pop gems including ‘Kong’ (the lead single from new album Close to the Glass) and some highlights from 2002’s Neon Golden (‘Pick up the Phone’ and a heartbreakingly gorgeous ‘One with the Freaks’).
The second half ventures into wilder, more avant-garde territory of the type favoured by Björk, Talking Heads or Radiohead at their most cerebral. ‘Seven Hour Drive’ and ‘Run Run Run’ (also both from Close to the Glass) are both swathed in noise, but any sense of excess is thankfully kept on a tight leash. This isn’t always the case though, and some songs are rendered unrecognisable via Mogwai-esque crescendos and Acher’s regrettable dalliances with the turntable. Still, with a repertoire as wide ranging as The Notwist’s, it’s nigh impossible to craft a set that’s going to please all the people all the time, and by slipping in a few less accessible numbers, the band at least made sure everyone got something to keep them happy.