The key to any "groove" based instrumental band is control. An atonal jazz solo can kill, but only for so long. In this respect, NOMO are practically rhythm monks, devoted to meter while never indulging in funk excess. Take “Nu Tones,” the lead track from their breakout 2006 release New Tones. The song balances a thumb piano poly-rhythm with an instant classic horn line leaving your body exhausted, but not your patience.
On more recent releases, the band has incorporated home-made electronics and sheet metal textures without abandoning the driving rhythms that keep NOMO white hot. “Waiting,” my favorite from their most recent album, Invisible Cities, is a crush of future funk. It seems recorded in a tight space, where a bright horn melody has to throw some elbows to compete with a blistering rhythm and precise electronic bass. The song crests, jumbled yet satisfied and NOMO move on to their next exuberant challenge to dance.
NOMO play the Tractor Tavern tonight. 9:30. Tickets $10.