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Nomo: Ghost Rock

July 18, 2008  |  1:25pm
Nomo: <em>Ghost Rock</em>
Michigan nonet tightens its imaginative Afrobeat

With its third album, Ghost Rock, Detroit, Mich. band Nomo sets itself apart from the Afrobeat masses. For much of this decade, dozens of austere instrumental bands have copied scratchy '70s funk styles, often demonstrating a high degree of respect to their homage but, unfortunately, little real imagination. So it’s nice to hear that after two nominal albums, Detroit, Mich.’s Nomo has separated itself from the revivalist pack with a few remarkable tricks, incorporating flickers of Krautrock (on the Can-influenced “Ghost Rock”) and Chicago post-rock (as on the seemingly Tortoise-inspired “Brainwave”) into its usual Afrobeat mix.

Such eclecticism draws more attention to the moments when Nomo indulges its Fela Kuti jones, as with the rousing saxophone funk of “Last Beat” and “Three Shades,” or the atmospheric horn choruses of “All the Stars.” And even then, Erik Hall’s fine guitar tones and bandleader Elliot Bergman’s mbira plucking give those tracks a distinctively light and eerie tone. (That is, when the latter's not wailing on saxophone; most of the nine members play more than one instrument.) However, when Bergman engages in an intriguingly ambient exchange with Hall and percussionists Justin Walter, Dan Bennett and Dan Piccolo on “Nova,” the members of Nomo prove that they not only know Afrobeat, but also how to rock.

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