NOMO New Tones

Upping the stakes on Afrobeat, New Tones is one of the few records that transcends the James Brown plus sticks’n’shakers template to which so many other groups conform. Taking a page from Konono No. 1, Earth Wind and Fire and above all Sun Ra alumnus Phil Cohran, electrified kalimba spices up the opener, "New Tones,” while AACM flautist Nicole Mitchell explores multiphonics way in the background. The Fela influence on NOMO derives more from his Egypt 80 band. The complexity and sheer force of Fela’s latter day horn arrangements is well in evidence in "Hand and Mouth” and many other tunes. Beefing up the sonics on said arrangements is His Name Is Alive producer Warn Defever, whose unusual choices in spatial imagining is as much a part of the sound of the record as the instrumentalists. The oblique N’awlins propulsion on "Fourth Ward” features a throbbing synthetic pulse enclosing some furious Roland Kirk-like soloing and creepy-crawly keyboard textures. Defever isn’t afraid to mix the subtle sounds way up front, or solos way in the back, as well as letting percussion dictate a groove rather than the bass and drums. One beautiful tapestry is "Reasons.” whose wah guitars, dulled drum sounds and warm bass EQ on kalimba and baritone sax nevertheless has a sharp sounding top end to magnify the funkiest parts in the mix. Each track tells a different story. New Tones offers so much sonic pleasure that it keeps you searching for more with each listen. (Ubiquity)