13 & God started as an interesting collaboration between unlikely partners, the Germany indie pop band The Notwist and members of American abstract hip-hop groups Themselves and Subtle. Initially the combination seemed strange, but upon first listen of their self-titled debut it’s clear that the members of 13 & God have some solid common musical ground. Own Your Ghost, their second anticon. release, continues to build upon that common foundation, but with a more expansive, more collaborative sound.
Vocalists Markus Acher and Adam “Doseone” Drucker interweave their vocals and trade off lead duties much more frequently than on their debut album, which tended to showcase one vocalist per song. Acher’s soft, calming voice and Drucker’s hard-edged, rapid fire delivery complement each other through their disparity. Drucker’s more aggressive approach makes you appreciate Acher’s softness, and vice versa. The songs on Own Your Ghost follow much the same path as the vocalists’ approach. Atmosphere, melody, acoustic instrumentation, and shuffling percussion are punctuated by electronics, noise and hip-hop beats.
Album opener, “It’s Own Sun” is a beautifully melancholic song that would be right at home on The Notwist’s last album, The Devil,You + Me, until Drucker’s backing vocals add an element not found on any Notwist album. Likewise, second track “Death Major” sounds like a song from a Subtle album but with the edges softened. Acher’s soft harmonies provide a nice counterpoint to Drucker’s stuttering, staccato rapping. Drucker’s trademark abstraction, and Acher’s charming directness fold together into an artful stream of consciousness, with many a lyrical gem to be found. On the standout track, “Armored Scarves,” the juxtaposition of Acher’s and Drucker’s accents produce an added dimension of meaning. Acher’s “iron” sounds like a book learned pronunciation and calls to mind an insular, protect-yourself-from-the-world feeling. In the context of Americanized English, Drucker’s “iron / I run” lends a sense of escapism, providing a nice contrast to Acher’s desire for insulation from a troubled world.
Own Your Ghost finds a way to combine the best of the constituent members’ past projects and previous 13 & God releases, while still sounding fresh. Whether employing power pop structures (“Old Age”), motorik Krautrock beats (“Et Tu”), or 70’s folk balladry (“Death Minor”), a unifying underlying approach remains. All these songs sound like 13 & God, even when elements not typically associated with the band are used. The Notwist and Themselves/Subtle have independently, with each passing album, moved toward a greater sense of sophistication and intent that tempers their experimental impulses, and points toward a distinct musical identity. The culmination of this growth and collaboration instill Own Your Ghost with a sense of importance for its creators. 13 & God is no longer just an interesting side project, it’s now an important means of expression for Acher, Drucker, and company.
Purchase Own Your Ghost at your local record store or if you must, on iTunes.