It really seemed as if 13 & God, a collaboration between Oakland's Subtle and Germany's the Notwist, was going to be this year's Postal Service, that wildly successful mind-meld of Death Cab for Cutie vocalist Ben Gibbard and Dntel producer Jimmy Tamborello. Alas, 'tis not the case. Subtle is known for artfully crafting music-as-Rorschach test: abstract and messy sound-paintings in which beats, noise, and MC Doseone's rapid-fire flow all compete for dominance. Conversely, the Notwist makes surgically precise electro-pop; Markus Acher's anodyne vocals are the fleece blanket on a feather bed of bleeps and beats. 13 & God does merge these worlds, but they mostly detract from, rather than complement, each other. It's a question of balance; the songs often sound either too scattered or not scattered enough, either overarranged and cluttered or not arranged at all. When the music comes into focus, as it does on the gorgeous and restrained "If" and the confident anthem "Men of Station," we're uplifted for a moment, only to be left wanting when the next track comes on. Bummer.
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