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The NOTWIST: 12  

OCTOBER 13, 1997:  Prog rock is making a big comeback, and Germany's Notwist are one of its better contemporary exponents. They draw heavily on native influences, specifically the metronomic percussive structures of krautrock giants Can and the cool vocal stylings of Nico. (Both Notwist singer Markus Archer and guest vocalist Cindy Dall of Smog bring to mind the artless delivery of the one-time Velvet Underground femme fatale.) There's also a good dose of the kind of dreamy, layered dual-guitar textures that New York avant-gardists like Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo specialize in.  
Add to that the Notwist's penchant for audiophile tricks like hard-panning the entire mix from side to side, the abstract and arty sleeve design, and their seemingly humorless demeanor, and you've got a recipe for pretension. Yet it's those high-art aspirations that distinguish the Notwist from bands who merely aspire to little more than fitting some inane definition of modern rock. And there's enough worthwhile material on 12's two discs (which collect singles and other material previously released on smaller foreign labels) to recommend taking their seriousness seriously. 


Joe S. Harrington