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NOMO: Invisible Cities

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Invisible Cities is NOMO's companion piece to Ghost Rock, comprising music recorded during Ghost's recording sessions and subsequent, supporting live performances. Cities uses many of the same musicians, structures, and approaches, but Bergman and NOMO seem to focus more on pulling traditional jazz sounds into, and pushing the boundaries of electronic rock out of, its swirling dervish mix.

For example, nothing on Ghost Rock sounds like Invisible Cities' opening, title track. Powered by the dual engines of a rhythm section with electric kalimba, and a horn section that majestically trumpets a cutting riff from the Oliver Nelson or Cannonball Adderley blues school, it almost immediately reaches warp speed.

There's also nothing on Rock like the New Orleans ensemble horn sound that calls to order "Patterns," although "rock" does describe what drummer Dan Piccolo and bassist Jamie Register do to mash up its beat, while the saxophone soloists blaze through repeated choruses with screaming electricity.

Invisible further demonstrates NOMO's ability to put music together in different ways. A guitar or keyboard riff first serves shrill counterpoint to "Ma," but then becomes the hook from which the horns and vocals take their cue (Bergman uses very cool kaleidoscopic production touches here, too). "Banners on High" seems to come together from all different styles and corners—churning staccato drums, squalling electronics, gloriously resounding horns—through some sort of collective musical magnetism.

Like Ghost, some Invisible songs can sound kind of difficult. "Bumbo" (credited to underground musical legend Moondog) opens in a free-spirited gallop but then its rhythm begins to throb like a toothache while several saxophonists begin to wail all at once, and its edge grows harsh; Bergman's production makes the sound both exciting and bleak.

"Elijah" sounds more apocalyptic than prophetic, a spacious dirge harmonized through a seething sea of roiling drums and electronics, the sound of the beginning of the end. It leads into the concluding "Nocturne," a tribal, percussion and vocal serpentine dance that surely makes Sun Ra smile. Bergman's wooden flute, leading several floating phases in "Crescent," provides another lighter sounding respite.

Track Listing: Invisible Cities; Bumbo; Waiting; Crescent; Patterns; Ma; Banners on High; Elijah; Nocturne.

Personnel: Dan Bennett: baritone saxophone; Elliot Bergman: synthesizer, arranger, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, vocals, Fender Rhodes, bamboo flute, ARP 2600, electric kalimba, Prophet 5; Natalie Bergman: vocals; Warn Defever: percussion, electric kalimba; Joey Dosik: alto saxophone; Erik Hall: guitar, percussion, conga, tambourine, vocals, kalimba, Fender Rhodes, temple blocks, log drums, electric kalimba; Quin Kirchner: percussion, congas, drums, electric kalimba; Jason Murdy: congas, bells; Dan Piccolo: drums; Ingrid Racine: trumpet; Jamie Register: bass, vocals; Hitoko Sakai: percussion, electric kalimba; Justin Walter: trumpet, vocals, EWI.

Title: Invisible Cities | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Ubiquity Records

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