13 & God – Own Your Ghost

written by: June 9, 2011
Release Date: May 17, 2011


13 & God represents the combined efforts of two different acts: hip-hop artists Themselves and electronic indie rockers The Notwist. So it’s a shame their unique approaches don’t make for especially intriguing music. Throughout Own Your Ghost, the collaborators favor a relaxed approach that occasionally borders on hypnotic. The arrangements, lush with a well-executed blend of conventional instruments and electronics, don’t leave much of an impression on the listener, functioning instead as an unassuming backdrop for vocals that alternate between tedious and irritating.

Although the sung melodies veer toward cloying now and again, as they do on “Old Age,” Doseone’s rapping is consistently grating throughout most of Own Your Ghost. His complex, wordy verses are impressive, but the unassuming instrumentation doesn’t support his theatrically postured, reedy delivery. Granted, the music becomes appropriately bleak when Doseone raps, but his stylizations aren’t exactly accessible to all tastes, and the production isn’t commanding enough to divert the skeptic from his decidedly difficult verses. Still, it’s hard to deny his evident talent. Doseone shines on “Sure as Debt,” where he sounds more urgent and in-step with the sinister production.

“Armored Scarves” sounds the most sure-footed in providing a successful instance of the group’s repetitive compositions. The anthemic refrain (“These are troubled times and so you dip your scarves in iron”) is rousing, perhaps more so because of the sheer absurdity of the declaration. Beneath this, the music builds with the addition of looping percussion. Here, 13 & God achieve a dynamism they’re unable to sustain on lesser tracks.

Oddly, the album sounds as if it were sequenced to highlight the juxtaposition between the sung and rapped verses, alternating pop-oriented tracks with moodier ones.

Rather than lending credibility to the marriage of disparate styles, 13 & God inadvertently derails the proceedings, as the album frequently stutters, only indicating the group’s full potential in snatches.

“Sure as debt, dust collects,” the repeated line that leads off the previously mentioned track, touches on 13 & God’s existential preoccupation with aging and death. Again, there’s an issue of mismatched pairs. The low-key instrumentation and overly poised vocals don’t carry the weighty subject matter. When big questions are raised, isn’t it better to confront them head-on rather than with cool detachment? Maybe not, but in this case, 13 & God’s inconspicuous approach fails to provoke much more than a lukewarm response.

13 & God – Own Your Ghost Tracklist:

  1. “Its Own Sun”
  2. “Death Major”
  3. “Armored Scarves”
  4. “Janu Are”
  5. “Old Age”
  6. “Et Tu”
  7. “Death Minor”
  8. “Sure As Debt”
  9. “Beat On Us’
  10. “Unyoung”