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Ann Arbor's futuristic Afrobeat group NOMO sure knows how to fling out expectations and stereotypes. Just two years ago, critics and anyone in ear range were justifiably lumping this nine-person collective as a group of Fela followers and putting them in the Konono N°1/Antibalas camp because of their strong resemblance to the music of Nigeria Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti. Those initial comparisons were flawed from the beginning, since, sonically, Konono N°1 and Antibalas are worlds apart, and NOMO has always sought its own space somewhere in the middle. On its latest release, Ghost Rock, which is one of the funkiest astral-beat projects a music lover could ask for, NOMO heads straight for the year 2050 and focuses on the music Fela's great-grandkids only hope to make. There's jazz here (of course), as NOMO has one of the best horn sections in the Midwest; strong percussive work; and African grooves as well. Check out the songs "Round the Way" and "Last Beat" for evidence of that. But things get much funkier and more futuristic as NOMO composer Elliot Bergman (who isn't known for following trends) cranks things way up electronically with his electric sawblade gamelan and amplified mbira. Both are homemade instruments that Bergman uses to rev up the band's effect. Standout tunes here include "All the Stars," "Ghost Rock," and "Last Beat." But trust me when I tell you this: The entire album is some cosmic shit that won't flush out of your system easily.
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Jonathan Cunningham