In the past decade, former punk rockers The Notwist have evolved from raw anguish to smooth indie-pop electronica. The German quartet began in 1989 with two aggressive punk LPs, but their third album, 12, found them experimenting with keyboards and drum machines. Their latest EP, Different Cars and Trains, stretches sounds even further. Twitching, nervous electronics blend with short, light melodies--like snippets of a romantic comedy thrown in amid a David Lynch film. At times neurotic, at times overexperimental, vocalist Markus Acher drops vocal lines ever-so-delicately to heal the musical discord. On the second track, "Pilot (Console Remix)," patience is a definite virtue. Scratching bass lines and drum loops carry the melody away into a lullful nowhere rather than drive the song. Acher's vocals lie lazily on top of the beat with little motivational punch, and the aching sense of two-dimensional sound makes your sister's first piano recital seem awe-inspiring. The Notwist is at its best on "Red Room," a woodwind medley that creates a sense of musical cohesion between the group rather than a dull-knifed dance-club vibe that appears on all other songs. The guitar, voice and electronics on "Red Room" mesh seamlessly. But even when The Notwist is at its experimental height, there's a definite sense of underdevelopment--the sounds are soothing but never courageous.
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