Review: The Notwist / Jel – Village Underground, London – 18 March 2014

The Notwist_ live shot by Donato Panaccio

Photo by Donato Panaccio

When it comes to established bands few have a stronger pedigree than The Notwist. Formed back in 1989 they have released a plethora of albums and singles covering musical genres as diverse as hardcore puke and acid jazz, and pretty much everything in between, but tonight the six piece were focused on showcasing the electro-tinged indie rock of their latest album Close To The Glass. Before The Notwist took to the stage they were ably supported by Jel, a one man beat machine that riled up the crowd with his unique mix of crunchy beats and whacked-out synths. Jel commanded the crowd’s attention as he pounded his sampler, creating a live collage of glitchy, triply hip-hop, his southern drawl rhyming over the tracks like Beck on acid. Afterwards, the crowd was ready for the main event, and it was clear that the sold out show was full of people baying to experience The Notwist in the flesh.

The Notwist are a band that have garnered somewhat of a cult following over the years. It’s not likely you’ll ever come across a fan who thinks this band are just ‘OK’, they seem to command a tribal passion in their followers, and this enthusiasm was abundantly clear as they slinked on stage under cover of darkness before striking the chords to ‘They Follow Me’, the subdued closer from Close To The Glass. Maybe they’d heard of the notoriously hard to please ‘London crowd’, but it was as though they were easing themselves in, almost testing the water. If this was the case, they needn’t have worried as the place erupted into a cacophony of whoops and crackling hand claps after their opening number. They then launched into the title track from their latest album and followed that up with album stand out, and newest single, ‘Kong’. The impossibly catchy Shins-esque guitar refrain and keyboard riff lifted the atmosphere and the lights shone on a sea of grinning faces singing along to the chorus.

The Notwist stuck to a set mainly consisting of new tracks, which was to be expected, but there were a few curve balls thrown in too, not least the glitchy prog orientated ‘One With The Freaks’ which was closely followed by ‘This Room’, both taken from their 2002 album Neon Golden. Any other band would have shied away from such a contrast mid-set, but The Notwist carried off the songs with explosive energy, much to the delight of the crowd.

They continued to build on their energetic foundations with textured samples and guitars, leading into a propulsive rendition of ‘Run Run Run’ and the more mellow ‘Casino’. But The Notwist weren’t done yet and returned to the stage for another round of songs culminating in ‘Different Cars And Trains’, a pounding glitch-laden landscape of distorted bleeps and crashing drums. They ended the show like a futuristic power station shutting down for the night, which resulted in a transference of energy, as the buzzing crowd seemed energised enough to experience it all again if they could.

The Notwist tour continues until July. Check here for tour dates.

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