Superheroes, Ghostvillains & Stuff
Label: Sub Pop
Catalog #: 71186
Remember how badly we wanted to join them and be part of those seafaring adventures: Jack London’s The Sea-Wolf, classic TV shows based on his novel The Road, on Radu Toduran’s novels... back then, a couple decades ago, the titles of these shows alone were enough to trigger some strong gusts in our hearts, salty squalls perfect for imaginary downwind journeys we dreamed of with billowing sails. We wanted to cruise alongside albatrosses, seagulls, and fellow sailors. Floating high above a three-masted vessel, we watched our own adventures unfold far below, an imagined movie scene complete with a whole crew that worked the rigging, and all the rest. Cutting waves. Amidst the storm and stress of sounds hitting our eardrums far out in the ocean. Combined with the sounds of rotors, of tropics crossed, of marimbas and cabin wood pounded, of strange music spotted in the distance. And even though it was merely for an hour or two that we were rescued by that seal-hunting ship “Ghost,” as Jack London had it, plus, even worse, often found ourselves surrounded by villains: it was a great escape, for we’d successfully set sails – to new and exciting places.
Both around their own Weilheim shores and elsewhere, brothers Markus and Micha Acher have launched various musical vessels, bands and free floating constellations over the past three decades – and yet: amid all these other speedboats and unlikely sonic barges, The Notwist has always remained the mother ship. This new album documents the latest live incarnation of this very band, which also features Andi Haberl, Max Punktezahl, Karl Ivar Refseth, and Cico Beck. Recorded on December 16, 2015 on the second of three consecutive, sold-out nights at UT Connewitz in Leipzig, Germany, Superheroes, Ghostvillains & Stuff indeed feels like a first-hand live experience caught on triple vinyl. That’s why it’s the definitive album of The Notwist’s career.
Although there is one song that points to the early, “louder years” of The Notwist – “One Dark Love Poem” off the album Nook –, the rest of the night’s set sees the band perform all the major hits off Neon Golden, The Devil, You + Me, and Close To The Glass. However, these are different, organically enhanced versions, new interpretations and combinations that feel much more alive; thanks to Olaf Opal’s incredible mix, they sometimes even outshine the original studio recordings. Listening to Superheroes, Ghostvillains & Stuff feels like watching these songs evolve and change, moving from one frame to the next, much like a baroque triptych.
What starts out like ‘wimmelbook’ imagery, the music soon folds and unfolds like a Moebius strip: Sans bottom or top, sans inside or outside, the inside becomes the outside and vice versa. It’s all about sonic interconnection, about music as entanglement, music as reconciliation. The rather majestic, cinematic (indie) pop and experimental, kraut-infused jazz, the spirit of the enlightenment and baroque playfulness, the traces of modernism and minimal music, dub leanings, hip-hop lessons, and even hints of house music: here is where they all come together, reconciled in a sound that’s both melancholy and romantic. And ultimately, the spirit of these songs is set free – and the band has released itself, is free at last.
As for the album title, it’s lifted from the song “Kong,” and encapsulates Markus Acher’s motto. Throughout the track, the water theme first appears as a dangerous threat: a force that’s strong enough to wash away an entire house; and yet the fluid state keeps transforming and eventually releases that sense of threat into something rather hopeful, a new musical beginning, a melodic departure that ultimately leads to euphoria and a renewed spirit of adventure. These are the strong gusts mentioned above, it’s the spirit of discovery, the urge to set sail together. The crew’s back at it, working the instruments, the rigging, with sails a-billow, launching the next voyage of discovery, assuming the East in the West and vice versa. And thus the adventure saga continues.
-Pico Be (Das Weiße Pferd)