New Disc Commemorates Late New Wave Opera Star and L.E.S. Icon Klaus Nomi

Klaus Nomi, the influential New Wave opera singer, semi-alien, and early ‘80s Lower East Side performance icon, was one of the first gay artists to succumb to AIDS when he died in 1983, as documented in Andrew Horn’s tear-inducing, yet hilariously quirky, 2004 film The Nomi Song. Though Nomi’s career was short-lived, and his synth-infused opera music — for lack of a better word — bizarre, the eccentric, German-born singer’s influence was considerable, touching pop stars (Morrissey) and contemporary composers (Austria’s Olga Neuwirth) alike. Now, on the eve of what would have been Mr. Nomi’s (nee Klaus Sperber) 64th birthday on January 24, a portion of his unfinished opera, Za Bakdaz, or “Nomi Homeland,” has for the first time been made available on CD. The Village Voice reports:

In his brief career, Nomi carried the flag for freaks of many stripes, with retro-futurist performances that featured his androgynous, Sturm und Drang vocals backed by a New Wave ensemble that artfully mangled ’60s Brill Building standards, classical arias, and quirky originals…

…While Nomi’s two studio albums for RCA (Klaus Nomi, 1981; Simple Man, 1982) do reflect some of his otherworldly glamour, too often his astonishing vocals are lost amid formulaic backing tracks; the few extant live recordings and videos are far better, despite an often primitive sound. Za Bakdaz, just out on Heliocentric, reveals Nomi in a different light. Part experiment in playful terror, part rough draft of his unfinished glossolalic opera, this suite of home-studio recordings circa 1979—lovingly restored by cohorts Page Wood and George Elliott—is a postcard from a distant land where kitsch and high art meet head-on.

Za Bakdaz, according to the album’s official Web site, is available for purchase at several locations in Mr. Nomi’s old stomping ground: Kim’s (St. Mark’s Place), Cakeshop (Ludlow Street), Other Music (4th Street) and Rebel Rebel (West Bleeker Street).