Return of indie band The Notwist | Music | DW | 21.02.2014
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Return of indie band The Notwist

When The Notwist put out an album, indie pop fans take notice. The band from Northern Bavaria has made a name for itself well beyond Germany but has never followed the mainstream.

"The Notwist are back? Cool news," wrote one of the first commenters after the band's new song went online on November 15. When they released their CD "Neon Golden" in 2002, the band around brothers Markus and Micha Acher already had an international following. Fans have had to wait quite a while after its successor, "The Devil, You & Me," appeared in 2008.

The new album "Close To The Glass" was released on Friday (21.02.2014).

Thomas Venker (c) Friedrike Wenkels

Thomas Venker of "Intro" says the band unifies diverse influences

Continuity and cooperation

"Intro," the best-selling magazine for music and pop culture in Germany, has regularly caught up with the band during its 20-year history.

"I think this is one of the rare cases where a band has really made it based on their music," says Editor-in-Chief Thomas Venker. "I last saw them at a festival in Iceland and have to say: You can't pull yourself away from what this band does on stage."

Part of the appeal is the range of musical influences, Venker adds: "The new album picks up on the electronic music of the 90s as well as the current trend toward Afro-centrism."

International fame can also be attributed to The Notwist's collaborations with other artists abroad. Getting together with US hip-hop band Themselves for the project 13&God led to a release on the renowned Californian label Anticon. "That definitely brought a lot of new people to Notwist," Venker says.

Album cover of Neon Golden by The Notwist

The band made a name for themselves with album "Neon Golden"

'Epic intimacy'

Another American label - Subpop - agrees that The Notwist have potential and is putting out their "Close To The Glass" album. The Seattle-based label helped spread the grunge sound, signing bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney.

The Notwist is Subpop's first German band. Tony Kiewel, responsible for signing artists there, says he's been a long-time fan: "There's a warmth in their songs that feels epic in its intimacy."

Kiewel says he doesn't find the band to sound typically German, except perhaps for a slight accent from Markus Acher when he sings in English - although he's not sure it's identifiably German. That's evident in the band's current video.

Jörg Süssenbach of the Goethe Institute (c) Gothe Institute

Jörg Süssenbach of the Goethe Institute

A 'tinkerer and experimenter'

Electronic music is much more readily associated with Germany, says Jörg Süssenbach of the Goethe Institute, continuing that works by Karlheinz Stockhausen and Kraftwerk led to an appreciation for this type of popular music around the world.

Süssenbach praises the band's experimental approach, calling band member Martin Gretschmann a "cobbler, tinkerer and experimenter" and adding that he builds a bridge to the world of electronic music from the band's indie rock sound.

Beyond musical talent, the Goethe Institute sends artists out into the world who identify with the organization's goals: "A sense of togetherness and willingness to share are paramount. You have to have an interest in partners locally."

The Notwist fulfill exactly these requirements, Süssenbach explains, noting they've already been invited to Mexico, Moscow, Prague, Istanbul, Moscow, Tel Aviv and Toronto. When police officers in India confiscated the band's amplifier, they reacted pleasantly, the Goethe Institute official notes.

The Notwist

The Notwist

A broad spectrum

The Notwist's sensibility has always been international, particularly in terms of musical influences - starting with American hardcore and punk to Krautrock, all the way to current electronic music.

"It's now a mix of contemporary and older music that we pick up in second-hand shops and also sample. It's a big spectrum," says singer Markus Acher.

That's why the band does not see itself as a cultural ambassador for Germany: "We're up there for us and not for a country, a culture or a region," Acher stresses. Another reason why the band has earned such success abroad.

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