The debut album from 13 & God, a fusion of the German art-rockers Notwist and California hip-hoppers Themselves, features intricate textures, sauntering beats and mostly electronic timbres -- all things that are often more conducive to headphone listening than live performance.
Bringing such music to life can be tricky, which is why the sextet's performance at the Black Cat Wednesday night was an iffy prospect. The musicians finessed the situation the same way a more conventional rock band would have: by playing faster, looser and noisier.
The set began as the album does, with the drones, chattering samples, church-organ keyboards and toy xylophone of "Low Heaven," followed by "Men of Station," a chilly synth-rock processional. Rapper Adam "Doseone" Drucker and multi-instrumentalist Markus Acher mostly traded lead vocals, but sometimes sang in ragged unison. As Acher switched between guitar and drums, three keyboards, electronic percussion and bass anchored the sound.
Handling the between-songs patter and slipping in and out of falsetto, Doseone was the group's focus, but as the set proceeded, Acher's guitar became increasingly prominent. The Notwist began as a clamorous modal-rock band, heritage that was reaffirmed by such songs as "Perfect Speed," with a buzzing interlude that led to waves of surging guitar, rather than the quiet coda of the recorded version. By the time the musicians returned for their free-form second encore, they'd proved that 13 & God is as much a live band as a studio project.
-- Mark Jenkins