Review ·

The term "experimental pop" seems like it should be reserved for the
same universe where "jumbo shrimp," "Microsoft Works" and
"compassionate conservative" reside. The immediately accessible
melodies and hooks required for a successful pop record are certainly
at odds with the primary focus of an experiment: time-tested versus
never-been-done. The members of 13 & God wear both labels on their
sleeves, but -- as their eponymous debut proves -- the desire to push
things forward and still create beautiful and accessible work is not
insatiable.

[more:]

A self-proclaimed "super group," 13 & God is composed of
the San Francisco-based hip-hop group Themselves, which includes Adam
"Doseone" Drucker, Jeffrey "Jel" Logan and Dax Pierson, and the
inevitably German glitch-pop pioneers the Notwist, made up of Markus
and Micha Acher and Martin Gretschmann. The combination is everything
you could hope for: dark, down-tempo hip-hop floating through fuzzy pop
clouds that drift in and out of the album. As far as abrasiveness goes,
you wouldn't expect a Faust vs. Dalek level of intensity from these
two, and you would be right. But the album's beauty is astonishing.
Using a basic formula -- broken a couple times -- of one Doseone (the
rapper) song for every Markus Acher (the singer) song, the album is
nevertheless enormously cohesive. Acher appears at just the right time,
and Doseone's nasally clip (I'm always surprised I don't find him
annoying) fits right in with the music.

Despite this natural beauty, there is still a sense that they
are willing to explore the outer limits of the musical template. The
music is strange but immediately appealing, and the effortless tone of
the vocals conveys a dark, contemplative moment. On "Soft Atlas," the
B-side of their pre-release single, the simple and gorgeous Men of Station,
Doseone contemplates space and the universe: "Without a universal law
there is no gravity/ Without gravity there is no atmosphere/ Without an
atmosphere there's no chance of life/ With no chance of life I don't
exist." His voice is repeated in rounds until all you really hear are
those last three words. The track, like so many on this nearly perfect
record, becomes almost trance-inducing.

Often it becomes clear that the experimental musician's and the pop
musician's purpose is one and the same: create a piece of work that
moves someone -- physically or emotionally -- and gives them something
they couldn't have before. Whether the musician is using basic concepts
like melodies and beats or something more complex like odd
time-signatures or strange production techniques, if the final product
convinces someone to think or dance or do anything other than turn off
the stereo (though that sometimes works, too), the goal has been met.
The members of 13 & God have created a genuinely rewarding record
that is better than the sum of its parts.

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13 & God homepage

"Men of Station" mp3

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