Sunday, June 28, 2009

Albums I enjoy #41

41. 13 & God by 13 & God

anticon is a label that loves a bit of teamwork. Despite being known predominately as a hip hop label, limiting your expectations of them to any one genre would be a great underestimation. The great branching web of styles created by the musicians never gets too spread out to lose that unmistakable anticon sound, thanks in part to the miracle of collaborations. Themselves, already a team effort of Doseone and Jel, reaches across oceans to connect with German electronica/black metal/indie rock band The Notwist, and the result is the wonderful record that is 13 & God. It's an excellent unifying link to the already tightly-bound tangle that is the anticon discography.

The album itself actually doesn't offer all too much in the way of surprise. If you had asked me to describe what I predicted a collaboration between the two groups to sound like before I had heard this, I think I would have described something pretty similar. Doseone knows his place, spouting off absurd but somehow thought-provoking lyrics with his trademark alien-sounding sneer. Jel's production and the instrumentation of The Notwist blend in such a way that it's hard to pinpoint exactly who contributed what, but neither goes too far outside of their usual shtick. The samples are quasi-relevant, fairly easy to look into but manage to lend the tracks whatever innate quality they would provoke in the original source. The backing instrumentation is intriguing, deep, with an almost shoegaze-grade haze and an idm-style beat. Everything in its right place.

So, it's exactly what it should be. That almost seems like a bad thing, but it isn't when what it should be and is is so unique and fun to listen to. This collaboration has no parallel; nothing could be operating on the same page as it. Dalek has the same sort of shoegaze/krautrock style of background sound, but the lyrical content is an emotional 180 away. Other anticon rappers have the same style of lyrics and delivery, but they often get too silly or too basic on the production. For not having to anything they hadn't done before, the members of the group have made some unique, memorable music.

The album's pretty consistently good, only really dropping the effort to make quality music for the spaced out, sample driven closing track "Walk", but that's an outro and exception. Some parts do stand out in my mind as absolutely brilliant and memorable, though. The repeated final line of "Soft Atlas" - without a universal law there is no gravity/without a gravity there is no atmosphere/without an atmosphere there is no chance at life/and with no chance at life...i don't exist. - sounds confusing the first time, but then sounds more and more anthemic by the end. The twisting, confusing, rambling lyrics of "Ghostwork", only revealing their brilliance after careful study. And the entirety of "Superman on Ice", a sprawling epic masterpiece of strings, beats and words.

It took me a few revisits to really get 13 & God. It wasn't that I didn't initially enjoy it - everything you hear sounds lovely and doesn't require any effort to appreciate - but I just didn't really pick up on everything that's going on. I've been praising albums that show "depth", revealing more and more as you plunge deeper and deeper into them, and this is a perfect example. Some parts come across like ghostly suggestions of sound, where others drive directly into your skull and set up permanent residence, but the real beauty of this album is the reward you get when you finally hear both.

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