A Notwist concert is a Notwist concert is a Notwist concert. The band around the core trio of Cico Beck and the Acher brothers Markus and Micha usually takes its studio recordings as a mere starting point for their live performances, considering them to be possibilities that need to be explored further. This is especially true for »Live from the Alien Research Center,« a live record made under unusual circumstances. The band members rearranged songs from their ambitious 2021 album »Vertigo Days« in their studio in Weilheim to record and film a special performance. The songs took on a new life, becoming more psychedelic and intense when rearranged into a spontaneous, Krautrock-esque collage.
»Vertigo Days« was meant to transcend the conventional notion of a band as well as the creative and geographic boundaries inscribed into that concept. And even though life had other plans, this is precisely what the album did when it was released to both commercial success and critical acclaim in early 2021. Contributions by Tenniscoats singer Saya, Angel Bat Dawid, Ben LaMar Gay, Juana Molina, among others, as well as new member Theresa Loibl on bass clarinet, harmonium, and keyboard, expanded the band’s sonic palette, stylistic range, and even lyrical focus through the addition of different instruments, artistic approaches, and languages.
All of that was missing when the band retreated to their studio—dubbed Alien Research Center in response to, and in spite of, a nearby church called Christian Outreach Center—to further explore the possibilities of the source material. The band members considered this a challenge rather than an insurmountable problem and not only accepted, but fully embraced it. Trying to work as little as possible with the computers and samples—Saya’s voice on »Ship« being a notable exception—the band rearranged six tracks from »Vertigo Days« and a piece from the »One of Those Days« film soundtrack in order to allow themselves to improvise more freely, especially thanks to Loibl, who takes on a key role during these 45 minutes.
The intro sets the tone for what’s to come, contrasting loose jazz drumming with curious synthesizer rhythms in an abstract rendition of the first sounds that greeted the listeners on »Vertigo Days«. While the next four tracks—»Into Love / Stars«, »Exit Strategy To Myself«, »Where You Find Me« and »Ship«—follow the chronology of the album, they use the originals as a blank slate for further experimentation. The first track morphs into a feverish long-form jam that draws on the underlying groove to shift the dynamics from and leave behind the song structure of the studio version. It’s an exemplary piece in a recording that sees each individual musician leaving their mark on the overall sound, all while being perfectly attuned to what everyone else is doing around them. This continues up until the record’s triumphant finale, a whirring rendition of »Loose Ends.«
»Live from the Alien Research Center« is at once a snapshot of a certain moment in the band’s history and the quintessential Notwist live record: a unique performance that both explores the untapped potential of the »Vertigo Days« studio recordings while also serving as an inspiration for upcoming live shows.
As with the studio album, the artwork for »Vertigo Days – Live from Alien Research Center« features photographs by Japanese artist Lieko Shiga, taken in the ’00s.