Nomo is well-known for the ability to be elastic. The Ann Arbor ensemble regularly hits up bebop, hi-life, samba and polyrhythmic sounds, making classification difficult and dwelling on genres fruitless. The group's multi-layered sound not only borders on Afro-beat, but it laughs at acid jazz and borrows from the improvisational sounds of Konono No.1 and Phil Cohran. Nomo might come off like a group of college-town musicians trying to imitate Fela Kuti's legacy if the musicians weren't so focused on looking forward. Unlike some Afro-beat devotees, Nomo doesn't dwell in Lagos. Their sound visits Congo, Brazil, Brooklyn and Detroit, and it's this breadth that makes New Tones more than a niche offering. Really, it's for dancing, for relaxing for all the good times in your life. The lock-tight brass and percussion sounds fans love are still here. But the group has matured, and bandleader Elliot Bergman has added new instruments, including a likembé (thumb piano) and an electric saw blade, and these help New Tones live up to its name. Nomo always exudes confidence, whether exploring traditional sounds, banging on homemade instruments, or tearing into a radical strain of psych-funk on "New Song." And by boldly looking forward Nomo has created another beautiful album.
The Nomo record release party May 13, at the Blind Pig, 208 S. First, Ann Arbor; 734 996-8555.
Jonathan Cunningham writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.