New Tones

New Tones

by NOMO
     
 

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The distorted thumb piano and handclap rhythms that introduce the title track of NOMO's second full-length (and its debut for Ubiquity), are jarring; they're instantly foreign and sharp, and lay out a different world of groove before those enormous horns -- the band's trademark -- electric bass, guitar, keyboards, and drum kit kick in full bore.See more details below

Overview

The distorted thumb piano and handclap rhythms that introduce the title track of NOMO's second full-length (and its debut for Ubiquity), are jarring; they're instantly foreign and sharp, and lay out a different world of groove before those enormous horns -- the band's trademark -- electric bass, guitar, keyboards, and drum kit kick in full bore. When they do, it's off on an adventure that welds spiritual jazz, Afro-funk, old-school soul jazz, and a healthy sense of child's play tightly together. Here, electronics and dub make their appearances as sub-languages, but the drive train, the M.O., is rhythm wound upon more rhythm, coiled around still more. Elliot Bergman, the band's composer, arranger, and saxophonist, and producer Warn Defever, pay close attention to space, texture, pace, and dimension. The next cut, "Hand to Mouth" takes it all further. The sound of a Rhodes, a harp, slippery bright guitars, and punch-drunk horns all turning on a dime suggest Fela playing with Alice Coltrane and Roy Ayers in the JB's, in the wild and delightful complexity of this monster. Bergman's charts are quirky, but they're killer. On "Fourth Ward," it's as if the serial toughness and attack of Banda Black Rio met Sun Ra's sense of humor and punchy swing, with a knotty, polyrhythmic pattern driving the whole thing, and yeah, it does wear its debt to Nigerian innovation on its sleeve. But it's not just the music that makes New Tones so startling and such a compulsive listen. Bergman and Warn Defever use production techniques to warm or accent the many blunt edges and loose wires of sound compacted and expanded on the album; spacey fades, treble wipe-out and in-the-red levels are common but are employed in unexpected ways and off locations in a given tune's structure. The multivalent melodic layers in "Reasons" showcase Bergman's keyboard playing. He makes his synth sound like a Wurlitzer and the Coltrane nod is obvious. But those interspersed lines, as wooly as they are, lie at the bottom. The horn section creates two more melodic lines that criss-cross, and Erik Hall's guitar acts like a second bass, keeping a pronounced lyric groove during the tenor solo. All these harmonic threads cut and weave: the in-and-out presences, the spectral trances of reverb and tonal juxtapositions as they bounce on the blanket of polyrhythms at the track's core, dictate not only pace and groove, but attack. The spiritual center of this music can be felt on virtually every track, though the grooves are so circular and infectious, it's tempting to simply focus on their endless renewal. The other aspect of New Tones is its willful but unpretentious exoticism. Given how deep-rooted it all is, it can be easy to overlook -- and under-hear -- all the subtle processes at work. Bergman's compositional sense of dynamic is finely tuned. He understands the tension at the heart of great jazz, and he knows just how far a particular motif can be stretched before it breaks. At the point where everything begins to converge, he introduces new ideas, never letting the old ones disappear completely; with a wry sense of humor and a keen ear he allows them just enough of a spectral trace so the listener does not get lost. The reverb and razor wire wah wah guitar chord riff that introduces the "We Do We Go" is heightened by dubby bass and synth lines that echo -- in spirit if not in actuality -- "Get Up Stand Up" by Bob Marley. It's all snaky, the keyboard moves like a Loa, floating but never coming to rest with a sense of spiritual ebb and flow. The tenor solo in the middle merely creates another labyrinth to follow into the rabbit hole. As a changeup, NOMO cover Joanna Newsom's "Book of Right On." It's spooky and nocturnal, yet it feels like a love song bubbling up from the cinematic underworld Jean Cocteau's had Orpheus hear on his car radio. The arrangement is sophisticated musically, but it's the truly gorgeous weave of sounds that Defever and Bergman frame the tune inside. It feels like Les Baxter's adventurous sense of perversity dancing with the elegance of Ellingtonia on a carpet of dreams and visions. The closer, "Sarvodaya," is named for the well-known Sri Lankan charity organization. It features a group chant, singing with loving kindness under the bells, cymbals, handclaps, and gamelan sounds. There is no funk here, though it is rhythmically contagious in its own quiet way. It is a prayer for wellness, compassion, and tranquility; for the needs of all to be met. One can almost hear the celestial ghost voices of John Coltrane and Don Cherry singing in the choir -- so to speak -- as the mantra winds and goes, goes, goes, into the heart's center. "Sarvodaya," is a nakedly spiritual cut that adds depth, balance, and dimension, a different kind of pleasure on New Tones, a set is that invites us all into the garden of ass-shaking delights.

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Product Details

Release Date:
05/09/2006
Label:
Ubiquity
UPC:
0780661119425
catalogNumber:
11194
Rank:
139462

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

NOMO   Primary Artist
Dean McKinney Moore   Alto Saxophone
Daniel Piccolo   Percussion,Drums
Stephen Rush   farfisa organ
Nicole Mitchell   Flute,Alto Flute,Piccolo
Warn Defever   Bass
Dan Bennett   Baritone Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Group Member
Vincent Chandler   Trombone
Elliot Bergman   Bass Clarinet,Keyboards,Tenor Saxophone,Kalimba,Gamelan,Electric Kalimba,Group Member
Jamie Register   Bass,Vocals,Shaker,Group Member
Dan Piccolo   Drums,Bells,Group Member
Chilali Hugo   Harp
Erik Hall   Guitar,Percussion,Cymbals,Group Member
Justin Walter   Trumpet,Bells,Log Drums,Group Member
Olman Piedra   Conga,Tambourine,Cajon,Shekere,Group Member
Ingrid Racine   Trumpet,Shaker,Group Member
Natalie Bergman   Vocals
Susan Bergman   Vocals
Nate Davidson   Guitar
G. Scott Jones   Trombone
Jamie Register   Bass Guitar,Vocals,Shaker

Technical Credits

Fred Thomas   Producer
Warn Defever   Producer
Joanna Newsom   Composer
Elliot Bergman   Composer

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