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NOMO: A Mix Of Static And Squawk

Moving away from the '70s-style avant-funk of its earlier releases, the Michigan band NOMO mixes the severity of vintage analog electronics with organic, funky Afro-jazz to create a playful and cerebral hybrid. "Brainwave," from the band's recent Ghost Rock, is perhaps the most concentrated, concise demonstration of this fusion.

A vintage brainwave generator — found at a Chicago thrift store by saxophonist Elliot Bergman — is manipulated to provide both a repetitive pulse and a guide for the rest of the band. Issuing forth a cycling sound pattern, the generator sends out a clarion call in what seems like Morse code. With each iteration, the sound drops and rises, moving up and down the scale.

The percussion section eases itself into the arrangement, followed by a pulsing three-note bass line. The electronics take on a melodic and percussive effect as the horn section insinuates itself into the track, lining out rich, modal harmonies. Everything morphs together in a mix of static and squawk, as if the music is forming itself into a helix of barbed wire, before everything gets thrown back to the whirring machines.

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Cecile Cloutier