The details are still hazy, but somewhere outside of Toronto in early 2004, on a stretch of uninspired highway leading to the U.S./Canadian border, a computer onboard a large tour bus spontaneously combusted. Some point the finger at the driver (an aspiring reality show auteur), others blame a faulty battery, and most hold a small stuffed fox accountable. But however it happened, themselves and the Notwist were stranded. Dates were cancelled. Meals were skipped. Shady motels were booked in below-freezing weather. The fox was dead. It was the fifth breakdown of their joint tour—the latest in a series of minor disasters—and somehow out of this two-day layover between distant somewheres, a love was born of nervous laughter, shared admiration, axle grease and roasting circuitry.
From the balloon-and-burst child psychology of Adam “doseone” Drucker, Jeffery “jel” Logan, and Dax Pierson (collectively themselves), and the pinhole-in-paper astronomy of the Acher brothers Markus and Micha, and Martin “Console” Gretschmann (the core of the Notwist), emerge 13 + God—six music-fed bodies coming together for a first crack at making something from nothing. All connections formal and former cast aside, this half-dozen form a transcontinental supergroup of very human proportions: American angst and honest ability, German composition and countryside chill, and the simple recurring universal urge to locate oneself within the folds of time and place.
Our players first met over blushing cheeks at a show in Munich. Themselves were traveling, spreading The No Music (their darkly smile-twisted second full-length of free-rap, chaotic atmosphere and electro-hop) from their Berkeley, California base to Europe and points beyond. Dax’s copy of the 2002 Notwist masterpiece Neon Golden was the tour van favorite, instantly claiming Adam and Jeff as casualties of its gorgeous arrangement and dubby glitch-pop. The whispering began, and the whatifs followed, and when themselves reached their German destination, there was Markus—the Notwist’s voice and principal writer—waiting in the audience. Talk of collaboration began by the end of the night, but really, they’d been saying it with their eyes all along.
After a pleasantly doomed North American tour, an impressive bus fire, and the Notwist’s sprawling take on themselves’ “Out in the Open” (for The No Music of Aiffs remix album), the two entities were inextricably entangled. It only made sense that a onetime punk band turned experimental woodwinded electronic rock-pop group should fall for an ex-battle rapper with a penchant for layered poetry and otherworldly melody (Adam), an SP1200 beatsmith who’s rewritten the rules of sample-based music (Jeff), and their newfound keyboard-playing friend (Dax). Both groups have a rich history of genre-bending collaboration (see Subtle and cLOUDDEAD for themselves, Lali Puna and Village of Savoonga for the Notwist); the fact that their music is so different only made everything more necessary.
Demos flew back and forth across the Atlantic. Home recordings were made and shipped; ideas were added to, subtracted from and otherwise modified, then sent back in tiny little care packages. And in September, themselves got on an airplane in San Francisco and woke up in Munich. They were crammed into cozy guest house converted from a late-19th Century wash shed, and for 17 days—for eight hours of each—they and their German counterparts banged out their newfound sound in Micha’s newly acquired Alien Transistor studios in nearby Weilheim, on a lot shared by an industrial metal cutting factory. Each day 13 + God would record, friends would stop by and contribute (Notwist drummer Martin Messerschmid, Valerie Trebeljahr from Lali Puna, Steffi Böhm of Ms. John Soda), the sun would begin its set, and everyone would return to Munich for home-cooked feasts, the world’s greatest beer, and whatever sleep they could scrape together before it was time to start again. It was a partnership steeped in work ethic and wide eyes, with no time for doubts and no need. On the final night, the band committed their songs to memory and performed them live for the first time.
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