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Despite being The Notwist's eighth studio album, Messier Objects is in some respects older than its predecessor. Much of the material here was created prior to the recording of Close To The Glass, during which time the band members embarked on solo projects and scored theatre performances and radio plays. This record is a collection of works produced during that time, though the band has also described the creation of instrumentals as a key component in developing the arrangements for Close To The Glass. Their 2014 album was well received, so arguably expectation should be high for this; the creative pursuit that helped conjure that fantastic record.

Unfortunately Messier Objects is a distinctly uninspiring album. 'Lineri' may have been the thrilling highlight of Close To The Glass but, with the exception of the slow-burning majesty of 'Das Spiel Aust' there's little here that really demands attention. Most of the tracks don't even break the three-minute mark and are largely a singular idea or musical loop. At best what you have is a mildly interesting presentation of the band's creativity in process, songs which sound like the kernels of ideas still being fleshed out.

For the hardcore fan, this is sure to be a fascinating insight, but for the casual listener, or anyone else there's simply not enough here to really make it worth your while. There's plenty of variety, from the melancholic piano and staggering drums of 'Object 5' to the swing-sampling 'Object 11', but Messier Objects is never engaging enough to make you want to return. An idea is presented and then the record moves on, 17 tracks and nothing is communicated to the listener. Comparing these experiments with the works of other composers, electronic or otherwise only serves to highlight the record's weaknesses. Acts like Sculpture and Jan St Werner show how it is possible to make electronic experimentation exciting and meaningful, whilst artists working on soundtracks, such as Jonny Greenwood and Clint Mansell understand how musical cadence, timbre and pacing can elicit an emotional response. The Notwist, for all their efforts just seem to be unable to achieve this.

Perhaps that's a harsh criticism, after all these instrumentals are presented alone, without the performance they were supposed to accompany. The cinematic qualities of tracks like 'Object 1', its looping jangles and plucked guitar recalling the soundtracks for The Wickerman and Norwegian Wood, hint at grand, melodramatic tales. In addition that, there is a very real sense that the record is a snapshot of the progression from the indie pop of 2008's The Devil, You + Me, to Close To The Glass.

Ultimately though, Messier Objects feels like a collector's curio. An anthology capturing the band's creativity at a single moment and preserving it for eternity. There will be some who will enjoy listening to the individual objects, wondering what might have been if the band had decided to build a full song around the gentle, post-rock piano of 'Object 6', or honed in on the haunting melancholy of 'Object 16' - all steady xylophone and whirring guitars. Always working within their own set of rules, The Notwist have pulled back the curtain and offered us a glimpse behind the scenes - the illusionist's trick is revealed.

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