The Notwist is a name I haven’t heard in a long time. I remember listening to Neon Golden back in high school a couple of years ago (definitely give it a go if you haven’t done it yet), but the rest of their discography went under my radar. That’s why I didn’t have many expectations coming to this album. After all, bands rarely produce any interesting material after being active for so long (The Notwist formed in 1989).
I’m happy to admit I was totally wrong and Vertigo Days quickly became one of my favorite albums of early 2021. It’s an eclectic and unique blend of different inspirations and genres. A wide variety of guests is something which surprised me a bit, but they all managed to incorporate into their tracks so well it leaves no room for complaints. In some cases guest features can even serve as a highlight of a particular song, especially on ‘Into the Ice Age’ and ‘Oh Sweet Fire.’
Even though Vertigo Days comes as a more experimental effort compared to their earlier sound it still has some nods to their early 00’s folktronica style. ‘Where You Find Me’ or ‘Loose Ends’ could be both placed on Neon Golden and I wouldn’t even notice.
The best tracks however are the ones with krautrock influences. They’re not full-blown krautrock madness in the vein of Can or NEU!, rather subtle, delicate versions of it. It’s especially evident at the beginning of ‘Exit Strategy to Myself’ which for the first minute is driven mostly by a hypnotic drum beat before the guitar takes the lead. ‘Into the Ice Age’ is yet another case of a similar approach to adapting the krautrock sound with the repetitive drums put up front as the main driving force. Another highlight of the album comes right after that, it also brings a huge stylistic switch as ‘Oh Sweet Fire,’ driven by bouncy bass, is straight-up a trip-hop track. Guest vocals by Ben LaMar Gay fit it particularly well, reminding me of late 90’s Tricky or Massive Attack.
Having so many different influences Vertigo Days might’ve ended as an unfocused mess, yet it’s cohesive throughout its 50 minute runtime. It’s exciting to see an experienced band such as The Notwist experiment and evolve in their sound, instead of just repeating old formulas.
Vertigo Days is available to buy or stream here.