It is never easy to come back after a long absence. It’s even harder, when the heritage your last albums left you with are now valued as classics of a whole genre. In certain parts of music nerdismn, Neon Golden is treasured visionary. For the German label City Slang, it was nothing more than the opus magnum of the label’s discography. I vividly remember seeing the video to “Pilot” on VIVA 2 and I remember how much Visions magazine (my then tastebible for music) valued it. I think I never fully understood it. Especially not as a teenager that was dwelling on punk rock and hardcore.
A few years later I somehow ended up as an intern at City Slang and that’s when I got it for the first time. Neon Golden is a perfectly composed record. It offers so many details that you can go back to it and be sure to find another part, another fizzle or squeaky noise that will make you smile because you hadn’t noticed it before. But following up such albums is not only hard, but draining. Where do you go from there as a band? As a songwriter?
It’s been a whole six years since The Notwist released new music. For fans, six years can feel like eternity. The band is renowned for its oddness but in a good way. If Krautrock was a sub-genre of indie, the Notwist would have a stake in there. Close to the Glass kicks off with these weird layered and plucking electronics embedding these smooth vocals by Markus Acher that have become a trademark of their sound. The whole record is a blend of their best moments. Of electronic tracks (“Signals” or “Close to the Glass”), acoustic serenades (“Casino”) and the reoccurring discomfort that always dissolve into warmth and melodies. It’s never a straight forward affair and will definitely not be ranked as a pop record. It’s music for connoisseurs, for those who like to listen closely. It’s pop music for feature writers. Pop music for people who prefer The Old Man and the Sea to Shades of Grey. I really like this album, though I think it doesn’t reach the heights of Neon Golden. But this might be down to my personal taste.
One thing, I feel will never change with this band: They sound like home. Despite all their quirkyness and twists and turns, they comfort me. I need a certain degree of warmth in their sound and when I listen to their new single “Kong” I smell green grass, lush trees and the sun in my eyes. I need that sometimes. And Close to the Glass tells me that for the next 50 minutes or so, I’ll be fine. If they can do that with any record, I’ll sure be waiting another six years for the next!