Published Apr 21, 2009After seven years and four albums, NOMO remain among Afrobeat's most brilliant and distant quasars. The "Michicago" ensemble's previous album Ghost Rock expanded their dense rhythms into krautrock, and Invisible Cities pushes them into a netherworld where texture and groove are inseparable. The Afrobeat tag still makes some sense, but bandleader Elliot Bergman is increasingly ambivalent about it.
"It's something I haven't come to a clear resolution about," he says. "What we're trying to do is a bit more abstract." Though much of Invisible Cities was recorded concurrently to Ghost Rock, electric kalimba grooves overtake horns as the focus of many tracks. This often results in the most serene music the band has yet created, but producer Warn DeFever (His Name Is Alive) maintains an edge to the proceedings.
"We recorded a ton of stuff around Ghost Rock, and we said at the time that nine songs went together and six were left over," recounts Bergman. "We ended up going back into the studio with all these electric kalimbas we had made, and had a group kalimba session. In six hours we laid down 50 different grooves. We realized this would finish the next album."
Though their sonic vocabulary has expanded, economics and artistic decisions have combined to reduce the band to six members from nine. Yet Bergman maintains that the sound has actually opened up more. "Everybody has a bit more space, the band is more dynamic. It really hones things in on the individual players and rocks out a little bit more."