Six years after the beautifully brittle eponymous debut, the cross-continental musical brotherhood of 13 & God returns with Own Your Ghost. This second album marks a vital shift, from collaborative project to bona fide band, as Oakland art-rap stalwarts Themselves (Adam “Doseone” Drucker and Jeffrey “Jel” Logan, plus Subtle’s Dax Pierson and Jordan Dalrymple) and German pop experimentalists The Notwist (Markus and Micha Acher, Martin Gretschmann) truly become one. Own Your Ghost is a warm set of life-affirming songs on the subject of death, drawing equal parts from raw spontaneity, lush melody and boundless imagination.
No song embodies this better than “Armored Scarves.” This swirl of acoustic strums, piano plinks, drum hits and electronic bits lifts Markus Acher’s icy coo and, in turn, Drucker’s own rarely heard singing voice, building to a full-band chant that echoes the theme: Protect your neck against the scythe of time. Also approaching 13 & God perfection is “Death Minor,” the moody splendor and orchestral swing of which bring to mind a mix of Broadcast and David Axelrod. It’s a gorgeously noirish backdrop for the musings of the two frontmen, who, while recording, would pull their lyrics from a stack of Drucker’s poems, letting each song find its words organically.
Own Your Ghost is a hugely diverse album with two polar opposites at its center. “Old Age” is, at its core, an upbeat, fuzz-caked summer song, while “Et Tu” is a black and menacing slab of glitch-riddled krautrock. Two tracks later, a stuttering Bhangra beat propels “Sure as Debt” as Drucker growls out a rap about old age and unpaid bills. Strings, keys, woodwinds and turntables were all bent to the band’s cause. They banged on shelves and boxes of change, played a broken kora and a hacked Game Boy, and sampled Sylvia Plath, Marilyn Hacker and themselves (via dubplate).
The record was made over three sessions, the first in Oakland-with a feed running from the mixing board to Pierson’s bedroom-and the other two in Weilheim at The Notwist’s studio. Despite being a seven-bodied beast, 13 & God remains single-headed, committed to building a body of work that will outlast us all. By example, they remind us to get our life-after-death on, creatively speaking. In other words, Own Your Ghost.