A band unlike most others, Detroit's NOMO consists of eight multi-instrumentalists led by Elliott Bergman, who plays tenor sax, bass clarinet, synthesizer, Rhodes keyboard, electric kalimba and more.
New Tones is a CD unlike most others, too. Captured in the studio by Warren Defever, the renowned yet enigmatic producer for Detroit's electronic/pastiche collective His Name is Alive, New Tones simultaneously explores electronic music, African polyrhythms, and American jazz and free jazz. "We blend minimalist keyboard loops, fuzzed-out bass, soulful group vocals, and rolling blasts from an electric mbira, enthuses Bergman. "Throw in a horn-led midnight funeral procession, and hopefully you have a deep listen that's also a soul shaking dance party for the people!
So many stylistic cross-currents make this thick music. "Fourth Ward is dished out as a sonic parfait in three layers: a rhythmic bed from an African nightmare, groaned in electric bass and a mad chattering monkey chorus of percussion; beneath an airy fusion-jazz melody danced in unison by synthesizers and horns, Weather Report-style; crowned by a cragged free-jazz saxophone solo which bores in like a mad wasp and almost seems mistakenly cut in from an unrelated tune.
"Reasons grows hot from its supporting electronics, like an engine warming up, and is one of the numerous amazing horn charts on New Tones, culminating in solitary saxophone bleating against drum, bass and percussion until Erik Hall's wah-wah guitar stirs the collective pot into a cauldron in which modern jazz, postmodern jazz, world music, electronic music, and acoustic and electronic funk all play equal, seething parts.
"Divisions rides circular ripples of interwoven guitar, percussion and electronics into a spacey jazz jam, ebbing and flowing as Bergman slides around his bass clarinet solo like a lazy cat sauntering in for afternoon breakfast, culminating in tidal splashes of syncopated horn and brass.
It really is that complicated, but even with all its complexity New Tones at its best is no less funky and primal. "We Do We Go builds straight up from the ground floor of Hall's soulful guitar hook, Jamie Rider's bass funk and collective low rider horns, cutting through the air thick and stinky like too much bad cologneyet with jazz perspective, too.
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