13 & God

The details are hazy, but somewhere outside of Toronto in the winter of 2004, on a stretch of highway near the U.S. border, a computer onboard a large bus spontaneously combusted. Some point the finger at the driver, others blame a faulty battery. Whatever the cause, Themselves and the Notwist were stranded. Gigs were cancelled. Meals were skipped. Shady motels were booked in below-freezing weather. It was the fifth breakdown of the tour, and despite those frustrations, a minor language barrier and the unfamiliar terrain, a cross-continental brotherhood was forged. Today, 13 & God comprises, on the one hand, Oakland rap auteurs Adam “Doseone” Drucker and Jeffery “Jel” Logan—plus their Themselves (and Subtle) compatriots Dax Pierson and Jordan Dalrymple—and, on the other, Markus Archer, Micha Acher and Martin Gretschmann, the core of German rock/pop innovators the Notwist. What began as a collaboration inspired by mutual fandom and wild “what ifs” has since become a seven-piece band and a genre unto itself. Theirs is a supergroup of very human proportions: organic, unbound and ever inspired. Sometime after that doomed joint North American jaunt, demos began to fly back and forth across the Atlantic. Home recordings were made and shipped, added to and subtracted from, then sent back as tiny little care packages. By early 2005, after a couple of plane trips, a few dozen weisses, and a 17-day session at Micha’s newly acquired Alien Transistor studios in Weilheim, 13 & God had a self-titled debut. Featuring appearances by Yoni Wolf (WHY?), Pedestrian, Valerie Trebeljahr (Lali Puna), and Steffi Bohm (Ms. John Soda), the LP represented a seismic melding of two forces in boundary-pushing music, the Morr Music camp and Anticon, of course. In the time that’s passed since, a great deal has changed. The Subtle sextet wrapped up its trilogy of krautrock-inspired fantasy rap, but not before a terrible accident left Dax paralyzed from the chest down. Themselves returned from a six-year hiatus to reunite the indie hip-hop sphere with their 2009 mixtape theFREEhoudini, then drop a hefty third album CrownsDown. The Notwist also remerged, following up their 2002 classic Neon Golden with the wistful, orchestral beauty, The Devil, You + Me (2008). But, as it turns out, no love was lost along the way. 2011 finds 13 & God together again, more at home on each other’s turf—both physical and creative—than ever, and more focused, yet more free. Their second album, Own Your Ghost, is an astounding work as easy to marvel at up front as it is rewarding upon the hundredth listen.