The Notwist
Different Cars and Trains


hen Neon Golden was first released in February of 2002, the album received wide-acclaim—so much so that long before its American release, the album was well-known. Because of this widespread dissemination of the European version of the album, the domestic release of the album included bonus tracks as compensation. Similarly, demand for The Notwist’s recent material has led many to search out the extra songs on released singles, in support of Neon Golden. The Different Cars and Trains EP presents a collection of songs from the Pick Up the Phone single, remixed tracks from Neon Golden and an entirely new song. Here, the Notwist appear to take their electronic explorations to a certain logical extension—towards ambient and minimal house—losing the vitality found within Neon Golden’s ability to straddle both electronic and indie-rock styles is lost in this experimentation.

Console’s reworking of Neon Golden songs presents vastly different backings to Markus Acher’s vocals. The original title track’s dirge is replaced by the driving drums that propelled the original “Pilot” on Neon Golden. The sparseness of “Neon Golden” is replaced by a constant 4/4 bass beat, flipping the tables on the vocal’s sincerity. In the remix, Acher becomes lost among bliss, eschewing his place between the rhythm of a continual thud and tweaked flute, with only an acoustic guitar for support. This tension, in the continual push and pull of each element, is resolved by Acher, who acts as the stabilizing force of the composition.

The remix of “This Room” by Four Tet and Manitoba captures the vibrancy of not only Neon Golden, but also Rounds and Up in Flames (Four Tet and Manitoba’s releases of 2003). Employing the xylophone to subtle effect, the remix’s dynamics also carry the original start-stop thrashing and develop an even more lush vocabulary to expand on the original. The remix cannot be placed into any real well-established category or genre, unlike the rest of the Different Cars and Trains, making it easily the most exciting moment on the record.

The band’s new song, “Red Room” was a track that first saw the light of day with the release of the Pick Up the Phone single. The track apparently probes deeper into electronic sketches; however, the results are rather dismal. Like a plodding lost trip-hop track, the song carries no conflict, and loses all sense of uniqueness. Similarly, the other instrumental song, “Different Cars and Trains”, uses familiar Notwist musical expressions, but can’t grab the listener without Acher’s dually warm and emotive vocals. Instead, the melodic motifs become hollow and exercises in directionlessness.

Different Cars and Trains EP is underwhelming, and perhaps provides the best evidence that the band’s greatest asset to bridging the indie-electronic divide is Markus Acher. The German’s uncanny English delivery provides an intimate and revelatory crux into colder explorations of electronic music. Providing the antithesis to Kraftwerk’s cold and robotic vocals within complete electronic melody, Acher’s voice carries undeniable warmth within well-trodden electronic territory and is sorely missed here.

Reviewed by: Nate De Young

Reviewed on: 2004-01-29

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