t would be a mistake to pigeonhole 13&God—an album that sees Anticon's Themselves recording with members of German outfit The Notwist—as any sort of rap-rock collaboration. In the broadest sense of the term, this descriptor could fit. Unorthodox as their music is, Themselves still fall under the rap genre, while the present definition of "rock" music is ambiguous enough to encompass the Notwist's electro-pop sound most prominently showcased on 2002's Neon Golden. But obviously, we're not exactly dealing with Aerosmith and Run-DMC here. 13&God represents less a marriage of rock and rap than it does a meeting of weird with slightly-less-weird.
This, of course, makes for a smoother amalgamation of styles than in many similar projects. While rapper doseone's unique, abrasive voice and the Notwist's sleek, melodic textures each introduce unexpected elements to the other's sound, they complement one another appropriately. "Low Heaven," the album's opening track, immediately presents this combination of both group's trademark characteristics and quirks. Distorted woodwinds and piano chords intertwine with an ominous spoken-word sample for nearly a full minute before doseone's enters the mix. The track goes on to feature virtually every positive aspect that each group has to offer—doseone's stream-of-consciousness rapping and Jel's glitchy production from Themselves, wandering, layered instrumentation and harmonized vocal hooks via the Notwist. The song exhibits how effective the incorporation of each group's strengths into a single track could work.
Subsequent songs on 13&God, however, mute one group’s influence on production and execution, often leaving uninspired results. Lead single "Men of Station" includes doseone only for his backup vocals, and Jel's influence is minimized, essentially turning the single into a watered down Notwist track. "Perfect Speed" similarly only hints at the involvement of Themselves with Jel's touches in the background, while "If"'s only signs of Anticon, before doseone enters in its final minute, are the continual high-pitched glitches that suggest Jel's production. Conversely, although "Ghostwork" shows traces of the Notwist's instrumentation, it could otherwise pass as a Themselves song.
The heights of "Low Heaven" are achieved again in "Soft Atlas," which features a dose of existential lyrics, delivered over a laid-back sparsely instrumented groove. "Superman on Ice," meanwhile, provides a seven-minute medley of the groups' most creative elements, including gorgeous cello melodies, sharp verses, and glitchy electronic rhythms. It's the album's last full-fledged song—followed only by "Walk," an unnecessarily lengthy kaleidoscope of vocal samples and white noise.
13&God functions best when the two involved groups equally share the creative responsibility. When one side's sound dominates the recording too strongly, it ends up becoming a second-rate version of either group’s work. However, the low-profile supergroup hits their mark often enough to make this endeavour a worthwhile one.
Reviewed by: Luke Adams
Reviewed on: 2005-05-04