The Notwist – Vertigo Days
The Notwist recently joined a select list of bands that continue to release compelling music thirty years after their inception. Like many members of this club the German outfit achieved this milestone by pursuing a steady diet of side projects, and by sidestepping the incessant tour/record/tour grind; Vertigo Days is only the band’s third studio album since 2008.
The Notwist’s last proper release, 2016’s Superheroes, Ghostvillains and Stuff, was the rare live album that represented an artistic step forward rather than a victory lap, reframing a career-spanning selection of songs as a coherent whole with a heavy dose of the unit’s increasing embrace of electronics without sacrificing rock’s catharsis. It sounded like a potential closing statement, and a damn fine one.
Fortunately, Vertigo Days picks up where Ghostvillains left off. The Notwist’s core is essentially down to brothers Markus and Micha Acher, and they’ve further de-emphasized guitars – which tend to be nylon-strung and heavily processed when they still appear. The Achers have adopted a new avenue for collaboration, enlisting female vocalists to take the lead on prominent tracks. Japan’s Saya adds flair to the oeuvre expanding “Ship,” and Argentine Juana Molina is an even more embedded collaborator on “Al Sur.” The most affecting pop moments, however – including “Sans Soleil” and “Where You Find Me” – still feature Markus’ wondrous voice, which magically straddles fragility, melancholy and alienation without teetering into preciousness.
Vertigo Days also retains Ghostvillains’ effective tactic of weaving the setlist into a continuous suite without compromising the personality of individual tracks. The standout songs, including the motorik “Exit Strategy to Myself” with its malevolent, early Stereolab synth drones, do precisely that – they stand out. But when absorbed as part of a whole, more ethereal compositions like “Into Love Again” (which appears twice) and “Into the Ice Age” gain added power. After 30 years The Notwist continue to succeed on their own terms, pushing forward without abandoning their past.