Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: Nomo - Invisible Cities (* * * 1/2)

Though my introduction to Nomo started with their latest release, Invisible Cities, a quick foray into their back catalog reveals why many consider them to be one of the most important instrumental bands operating today. Melding an eclectic variety of styles and instruments into a progressive jazz/afro-beat sound that subtly shifts with each release, the eight-piece collective has continually impressed throughout the past ten years. The group now delves even further into traditional jazz musicianship with Invisible Cities, though the music retains Nomo's exploratory nature and unique rhythmic lines that made the band so fascinating in the first place.

The record's title and opening track kicks things off with a bang, with twisted, manipulated electronics and guitar over various forms of percussion quickly exploding into a swinging, brass-heavy jazz tune. On the surface, the virtuoso solos and driving tempo might seem a common formula, but the magic is in the details - like the swirling undercurrent of noise subtly shifting behind the melody and the way the rhythm section blends together so smoothly with its disparate elements. It's an excellent example of the more approachable and arguably best material on Invisible Cities, which includes the funky, sexy "Waiting" and the more down-tempo, afro-beat-esque "Crescent," the latter of which leaves out the horns found throughout much of the album.

The record's first half is consistently great and the second starts strong as well, though when Invisible Cities gets into messier, more abstract territory near the album's end, the results are interesting but they also break up the momentum before the gorgeous closer, "Nocturne." Fans of more avant-garde instrumental music will likely not mind the diversion, but though the quality of the musicianship remains high, the album feels less cohesive after the 42 minutes are through. Still, there's plenty of obvious tallent showcased here and Nomo creates some legitimately exciting moments that make Invisible Cities worth digging into.

Invisible Cities (MP3)