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Za Bakdaz: The Unfinished Opera

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Album Review

The existence of a third Klaus Nomi album must have seemed like an impossible dream for hardcore Nomi freaks for many years, but the brief Za Bakdaz — a combination archival release, some new (musical) recording and art statement — proves otherwise. Though the liner notes don't spell it out, the songs come from a series of sessions recorded with the singer by Nomi sidemen and collaborators George Elliott and Page Wood during 1979, while details of the stage presentation called the Nomi Show were still being put together. Described by Wood in an interview as reflective of Nomi's fascination with the "whole grand-opera-meets-Buck-Rogers thing," it's an intentionally polished and presented final product worked on by Elliott and Wood in recent years, and while some songs had surfaced elsewhere — the mesmerizing title track and a concluding take on "Silent Night," not to mention an early and very different sounding rough version of Simple Man's "Rubberband Laser" — the whole is an otherwise new and wonderfully loopy listen. The air throughout is of random play, heightened by the bubbly harpsichord-meets-lounge instrumental intro "High Wire," with a very self-consciously artistic edge — instead of the immediate pop hooks of songs like his cover of "Lightning Strikes," here Nomi mostly explores arias in miniature, with further treatments like the chop-ups on "Cre Spoda" giving his voice an even more distant, unearthly feeling. That Nomi would sound in fine voice is unsurprising — it was the power of his singing that won over people to start with as much as his image — and compared to the often too-slick performances on his official studio albums, the accompaniment here explores odd textures, echoed riffs, and other odd sonic murk. Hearing Nomi's famous falsetto first glide in with a wordless cry on "Valentine's Day" is a wonderful moment, while such songs as the remarkable "Enchante," with everything from clattering industrial percussion to a haunting chorus, and the drone-funk of "Perne-A-Gyre" make for fine additions to a too-slim catalog.

Biography

Genre: Electronic

One of the first prominent persons to die of AIDS, Klaus Nomi mixed rock and disco stylings with a classical and operatic repertoire. He was born Klaus Sperber in Immenstadt, Bavaria, Germany in 1944, but moved to New York in the mid-'70s, working as a pastry chef and nightclub singer. One of his sets impressed David Bowie, and Nomi soon found himself backing the star on Saturday Night Live. He began touring Europe and the U.S. as a cabaret act and signed to RCA in 1980. His first single was a cover...
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Za Bakdaz: The Unfinished Opera, Klaus Nomi
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