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NOMO: Ghost Rock

Chris M. Slawecki By

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The initial sound heard on the opening "Brainwave" offers a first insight into the music of NOMO—the sound of composer, multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Elliot Bergman "playing" an actual brainwave monitor. It's an important clue: NOMO finds music where other people find noise.

Ghost Rock is not an easy listen. It is inventive, challenging, and rewarding, and very often like an onion—each song grows through many layers, and they can be pungent enough to bring tears to the ears. But it is not easy.

"All the Stars" shines with icy cool. Electric kalimba (NOMO's trademark sound) and percussion seem to breed and spawn in the rhythm bed, while Bergman's saxophone and other saxophones and horns build and release melodic tension. This rhythm track is the essential sound of NOMO—know this sound, and you know NOMO. More than this, "All the Stars" wordlessly explains how NOMO's modern electronic jazz extends the continuum from foundational late '70s jazz experimenters such as Miles Davis and progressive rockers like King Crimson, Can, and Gongzilla.

Ensemble and individual saxophones from Bergman, Daniel Bennett, and Joey Dosik, dominate several tunes, in particular "Round the Way," "Rings," and "My Dear," which like a suite whiz past as a collective blur. "Rings" is a complete saxophone and rhythmic raveup, where neither the hard-charging horn section nor the rhythm section concedes any ground. "My Dear" locks into step with a barbed guitar hook, which pins it down to be scorched by saxophone solo after solo.

Later, "Last Beat" sounds more like something titled "Postcards from the Howling Saxophone Hurricane," although with a funky rhythm guitar hook that lends a '70s retro feeling, like the chase scene in a superfly cop action drama, and a liberating saxophone/percussion breakout jam.

"Nova" gently rocks its coda, but most of the rest of Ghost Rock is almost too thick and dense, almost too much. It is almost too much... but it's just enough.


Track Listing: Brainwave; All the Stars; Round the Way; Rings; My Dear; Ghost Rock; Last Beat; Three Shades; Nova.

Personnel: Josh Abrams: bass; Dan Bennett: contrabass clarinet, baritone and tenor saxophone; Elliot Bergman: bass, clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone; Maracas Mbira: Fender Rhodes, Arp 2600, electric kalimba, Prophet 5, SH-101; Warn Defever: guitar; Joey Dosik: alto saxophone; Hamid Drake: percussion, drums, bata; Erik Hall: guitar, drums, tambourine, bells, shaker, roto toms, log drums; Chilali Hugo: harp; Quin Kirchner: conga; Jason Murdy: percussion, conga, bells; Dan Piccolo: drums; Ingrid Racine: trumpet; Jamie Register: bass; Adam Rudolph: congas; Justin Walter: trumpet.

Title: Ghost Rock | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Ubiquity Records

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