German rock band The Notwist entered the music scene in 1989 as a post-hardcore act, but over the past 40 years, they’ve gone through multiple developments, softening their sound as they explored the field of electronic music. Their 2015 album, Messier Objects, was a fully instrumental, hour-long journey through different soundscapes and acted as a pivotal shift from their early days of head bangers.

Notwist’s newest album, Vertigo Days, maintains these electronic explorations, but combines them with their more typical lyric-laden tracks—similar to those heard on 2014’s Close to the Glass. By blending these influences of electronic music and indie rock, Notwist has created an impressive album that is greater than the sum of its parts. Vertigo Days definitely feels like a project more than just an album. With each track flowing seamlessly into the next, you have to listen all the way through to fully appreciate what Notwist has accomplished with the record.

And Notwist does their best to keep this musical journey from becoming boring. Long, repetitive instrumentals have little place on the album. The interludes “Ghost” and “*stars*” each last for less than 90 seconds, displaying their musical offerings to the listener before allowing the next track to take over. When the songs do run long, Notwist makes sure to add in supplemental elements. Whether it’s a song change like “Into Love/Stars”, accompanying lyrics in “Loose Ends” or a featured performer in “Into The Ice Age”, the band does their best to reward the listener for paying attention.

Those featured artists are of particular note. Notwist implements singers and performs alike, including jazz musician Ben LaMar Gay, clarinetist Angel Bat Dawid, Japanese experimental artist Saya, and Argentine singer Juana Molina. These performers—all notable names in experimental or avant-garde music—add a beautiful layer of variety and texture to Vertigo Days. Dawid’s clarinet, for example, acts as a fun surprise on “Into The Ice Age,” while Molina’s vocals, sung in Spanish on “Al Sur,” provide just another unexpected direction on the album. This combination of contrasting parts further emphasizes Notwist’s unique abilities to place disparate elements side-by-side in a way that just works. (Listen from “Oh Sweet Fire” to “Sans Soleil” for a perfect example of this.)

Vertigo Days feels very much like an accomplishment, a technical feat to be proud of. Taken in pieces, the songs may seem unconventional or unattractive, but together they create a praiseworthy piece of art. It may take a few listens, but if you’re looking to expand your musical horizons, give this album a try. Just make sure you listen all the way through.

Noah Haynes

Favorite Tracks: Where You Find Me Now, Into Love/Stars, Oh Sweet Fire, Night’s Too Dark, Ghost

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