13&God - Own Your Ghost (Alien Transistor)

Who said talking about death had to be depressing?

Released May 23rd, 2011 via Alien Transistor / By Norman Miller
13&God - Own Your Ghost (Alien Transistor) Six years after their beautifully brittle eponymous debut, the transatlantic musical collaboration that is 13&God are back to stick a welcome finger in the air to all the so-called 'guest partnerships' that litter the singles charts like dog shit on the pavement.

What California art-rappers 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) go for - and achieve - is a respectful fusion of contrasting styles and strengths on a 10-strong set about one of those biggie subjects: death.

It's a mark of the inventiveness of this seven-headed musical beast that while there's anger, wit and the bittersweet here, not a single song takes the easy option of bleakness despite the subject. There's a unifying thread too in the way the album pulls together the contrasting vocal styles of the two main singers – the icy-but-frail coo of Markus Acher vs Drucker's spiky-yet-almost-cartoonish delivery.

Each song bears some stamp of musical distinction. Gorgeous noir wash backdrops 'Death Minor', bhangra drives the spat-out anger of 'Sure As Debt', while an ironically jaunty playground vibe mixes with a warm fuzziness on 'Old Age'. The sweet acoustic strums of 'Armored Scarves', meanwhile, are mixed with sparse drum clatters to create something like Jose Gonzales with balls, along with a memorable refrain: “These are troubled times/ and so dip your scarves in iron”. 'Janu Are' is another standout with its fusion of moody wind, little piano tinkles and slow-loping beats, while 'Beat On Us' scores with fast hypnotic percussive pitter-patter.

Lyrics too are intriguing, nicking poetry from the likes of Sylvia Plath to add to the combo's own dark poetry in lines like “invention's open mouth/where your negative sits”. Who said talking about death had to be depressing?