The Notwist's Neon Golden was one of 2003's unknown gems. The album's cool, minimalist electro-pop, colored with sparse woodwinds and Markus Acher's humanly flawed vocals, was the perfect soundtrack to a spectral, all-night train ride across Northern Europe. The German band's next journey is a partnership with California hip-hop experimentalists Themselves, who bonded with the Krautrockers on a North American junket that climaxed in the conflagration of a computer on their shared tour bus. The fire (and the tour) catalyzed an album calculated to please everyone who's ever fantasized about impish MC Quasimoto shacking up with Kid A. The result is a deceptively simple, low-energy masterpiece that travels from a state of cold, neurotic fragmentation in opener "Low Heaven" through the brief hopefulness of "Men of Station" and "If," and ends with the near-epic "Superman on Ice" (which contains the finest combination of cello and rap ever recorded). Some will find this effort too dainty, too aloof, too pretentious and, lyrics-wise, occasionally useless. (Judging by the repeated but we're not as hell as you in "Men of Station," Acher still hasn't mastered English.) But to those with a taste for the more desperate side of pop, paranoia never sounded so sweet.