Six years after releasing their beautifully brittle eponymous debut, the crosscontinental musical brotherhood of 13 & God returns with Own Your Ghost. This second album marks a vital shift, from collaborative project to bona fide band, as Oakland art-rap stalwarts Themselves (Adam “Doseone” Drucker and Jeffrey “Jel” Logan, plus Subtle’s Dax Pierson and Jordan Dalrymple) and German pop experimentalists the Notwist (Markus and Micha Acher, Martin Gretschmann) truly become one. Own Your Ghost is a warm set of lifeaffirming songs on the subject of death, drawing its magic in equal parts from raw spontaneity, lush melody and boundless imagination.
No song embodies this better than “Armored Scarves.” Here, a swirl of acoustic strums, piano plinks, drum hits and electronic bits lifts Markus’ icy coo and, in turn, Adam’s own rarely heard singing voice, building to a fullband chant that echoes the theme: Protect your neck against the scythe of time. Also approaching 13 & God perfection is “Death Minor,” whose moody splendor and orchestral swing can’t help but bring to mind a mix of Broadcast and David Axelrod. It’s a gorgeously noirish backdrop for the musings of the two frontmen, who, while recording, would pull their lyrics from a stack of Adam’s poems, letting each song find its words organically.
Though 13 & God carve out a genre that is distinctly theirs, Own Your Ghost is a hugely diverse album. At its center are two polar opposites, “Old Age” and “Et Tu.” While the former is, at its core, an upbeat, fuzz-caked summer song, the latter is a black and menacing slab of glitch-riddled krautrock. Two tracks later, a stuttering Bhangra beat propels “Sure As Debt” as Adam growls out a rap about old age and unpaid bills. Strings, keys, woodwinds and turntables were all bent to the band’s cause. They banged on shelves and boxes of change, played a broken kora and a hacked Game Boy, and sampled Sylvia Plath, Marilyn Hacker, and themselves via dubplate.
The record was made over three sessions, the first in Oakland—with a feed running from the mixing board to Dax’s bedroom—and the other two in Weilheim at the Notwist’s studio. Sometimes Markus takes lead (to wit, handsome opener “Its Own Sun” and the grittier, almost jammy “Beat On Us”) and sometimes Adam does (see atmospheric piece “Death Major” and the massively swaggerful “Janu Are”). But despite being a seven-bodied beast, 13& God remains single-headed, committed to building a body of work that will outlast us all. By example, they remind us to get our life-after-death on, creatively speaking. In other words, Own Your Ghost.
released June 28, 2011
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