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Nickodemus: Endangered Species

Michael McCaw By

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With the burgeoning guitar rock of the sixties, kids growing up found heroes who played an instrument that could be easily mass manufactured for a relatively small amount of money. And over the next couple of decades, the guitar became the icon of new music in America, eventually becoming the most widely purchased musical instrument.

Nonetheless, with the advent of DJ culture and assimilation of computers into our everyday lives, the sampler, turntable, and mixer have often supplanted the guitar as the instruments of choice for the new generation. No matter how cramped your apartment or how clumsy your hands may be, this technology allows you to manipulate and create such an incredible variety of sounds and structures that the possibilities are practically limitless. And with the amount and diversity of this kind of music now being created in all genres, the age of the DJ has truly arrived.

These sounds are often created in a sterile electronic enviroment, but in the right hands they can be as compelling and organic as any other kind. Nickodemus is not a new kid on the block, but Endangered Species is his first full length album. Working parties in and around New York for well over six years, Nickodemus has honed his skills in melding genres and elements from various global musical styles—reggae, house, funk, Latin, Arabic, Afrobeat, and more. Using this experience, he has constructed an album that blends the familiar with the exotic. The urban meets world music aesthetic has been explored before with varying degrees of success, but Endangered Species is a compelling listen that does a good job of differentiating itself from the pack.

"Cleopatra in New York serves as a good example of how the album works as a whole. Nickodemus melds a complex rhythm of drums and various percussion instruments and lays Arabic-influenced flute and oud on top, which carries the main melody and serves as a textural bed for a wordless female vocal. The track has an assertive pulse that is calmed by the cool sound of the instruments, and although it may be considered a dance track, it is much more complex musically than that.

The key here, and throughout the album, is that Nickodemus is not simply layering one beat or loop on top of another. Rather he is creating a foundation for these different musical elements to breathe and come together on their own accord. Every track here is cut from a similar cloth, but with vastly different colors and textures. From the laid back opening title track and its acoustic guitar groove to the roll call of drummers on Give The Drummer Some and the syncopated closing "Mystery of Life, each track provides a different journey and utilizes special guests to varying degrees.

You can find common threads embedded throughout, but Nickodemus imbues Endangered Species with more than enough variation and ingenuity to hold interest while still marinating a dynamic sense of movement and flair. What will really be interesting is to see how he develops this already mature sound over time—and where he'll go next.


Track Listing: Endangered Species; Funky In The Middle; Give The Drummer Some; Back From Africa Interlude; Back From Africa; Peace Pipe; Cleopatra In New York; The Global Village; Crazy Stranger; Patient With the World; The Spirits Within; Mystery of Life.

Personnel: Nickodemus and guests.

Title: Endangered Species | Year Released: 2005

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