You’re welcomed into the world of Close To The Glass with an ominous, percolating synth line. Slowly, some additional beeps and taps arrive off-time, swell up, then fade away. When a voice finally presents itself to you, it’s ambiguous: “We wanna be you/We wanna be like you,” sings Markus Acher delicately. And just when the telltale anticipation of a beat about to drop rises, the synths scramble into rhythmic chaos. It’s these kinds of moments that make The Notwist’s newest excursion such an interesting, engaging listening experience.
This is the first album in five years from the German glitch-rock band, and they’ve made sure to cover all possible sonic ground they may have trod in that interim throughout these 12 tracks. There are definite traces of pop sensibility in their avant garde air, from the light half-time drive of Kong to the bright chords and eerie “ooohs” of 7-Hour-Drive. While we know these guys are masters of the electronic arts, a number of tunes demonstrate the band’s proficiency with traditional instruments and song structures, while never completely forfeiting their love of tactical noise. Casino and Steppin’ In are two exceptions that achieve the charm of an acoustic guitar being played through a 4-track recorder.
The home stretch of the album is where the band really opens up, unleashing haunting melodies and intricate movements that create a soundtrack for a virtual fever dream. Run Run Run goes out with a repetitive dance break that’s reminiscent of a Sega Genesis boss battle. Then the nine-minute instrumental, Lineri, saunters along with no immediate direction or destination. What’s most interesting about this song is that there is no guidance. While through most of the album Acher had impressed upon us a notion of paranoia—”Don’t ever think/you’ll ever know/if you’re swimming in/or outside the bowl” (Close To The Glass)—with Lineri, you are left alone to explore the landscape on your own terms.
All journeys must come to an end though. They Follow Me, the album’s closing lullaby, finds Acher singing, “All the wrong things I can do/follow me when I’m without you,” over staccato synthesizers before the band sends us off on a cloud of deep chords and meddling strings. If this world of paranoia and confusion is what The Notwist have been concocting on the other side of the glass for the past five years, it was worth the wait.