Tru Thoughts


(March 22, 2011)

Nostalgia 77 is the brainchild and alter ego of DJ, producer, and all around musical everyman Ben Lamdin. Under the moniker, Lamdin has produced a copious amount of work with an impressive list of artists. In the tradition of his affinity for soul baring vocals, electronic production, and lush arrangements, Lamdin presents The Sleep Walking Society. The title is slightly ironic, considering how eye opening and fascinating his aesthetic is.

The album opens with “Sleepwalker”; the kind of baritone sax heavy flophouse groove that one would imagine seeping through the walls of backwater juke joints and basement lounges at their height. This is a song for people who own their own stills and lovers of the sex, angst, and cigarettes dripping from Amy Winehouse’s catalog. The album features the vocals of German singer, Josa Peit at the helm of most tracks; her voice a slow and smoky manifestation of what ninety-five degrees in the shade must feel like on repeat. In this set of circumstances, Peit’s performance evokes the vocal sensibilities of Astrud Gilberto, Carmen Mcrae, and Lydia Pense during her days with Cold Blood.

The album’s second track, “Beautiful Lie” employs the rhythmic triumvirate of guitar, bass, and drum to produce a skillfully woven tapestry of cool as Folk. The most immediately gratifying thing about the track is knowing it has been recorded and will be available should anyone feel the need to have someone sing them a lullaby. At its essence this is comfort music and Lamdin’s track does the job well enough that it becomes easy to forget the lyrics are about a lie. It is not beautiful in name only, but beautiful because it simply just is.

What Lamdin has become known for is finding and collaborating with phenomenal vocal talents who may not always fit neatly into the conventions of any specific vocal tradition, except that they are certified purveyors of raw emotion and spine rattling soul. Having worked with Alice Russell, Lizzy Parks, and Julie Tippett, Ben Lamdin’s pairing with Josa Peit seems like a natural and wholly appropriate progression. “Golden Morning” exemplifies the genius of their partnership, with Peit’s voice filling the gaping holes in Lamdin’s very spare and haunting production, which begins with a bass tremolo and ends with the abrupt halt of Peit’s voice against the pluck of the last note vibrating into the space left by her silence.

Just as the thought of Nostalgia 77’s production scoring films wrought with the imagery of rusted muscle cars, one horse towns, and desolate Americana becomes appealing, Lamdin switches gears and burrows headfirst into the jazz groove of “When Love Is Strange”; a track that would find itself at home in a Godard film as easily as it would a Spike Lee Joint. The saxophonists engage in a subtlety charged call and response over the driving instrumental framework of a drum and bass performance that is highlighted as the track is stripped of horns and laid bare in the eerily suspenseful manner. Josa Peit returns on “Blue Shadow” and “Mockingbird” with very straightforward and simple lyrics that work best as second fiddles; the words allowing Peit’s vocals and Lamdin’s robust string arrangements to shine without assigning too much responsibility to the attentive ear.

This music is not uproarious or tracked and mixed for revolution, but may well work for the aftermath. It is moaning, contemplative, calming, difficult, melting, and stark. There is a warmth and sadness that bookends the album’s content, and typifies “Hush” – the last installment in the nine-track release. The track embodies the spaciousness of Sweetback’s production and the inescapable pathos lingering in modern dirges like Coltrane’s “Alabama” and Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”. Borrowing from his electronic sensibilities, Lamdin fills the track with ambient noise and found sounds undulating between soft cymbals. At a whopping eight minutes, “Hush” is a track after the hearts of Jazz junkies with a soft spot for the days when every recording was close to or well over ten minutes long.

With The Sleepwalking Society, Nostalgia 77 has created a release with the vintage aesthetic that appeals to lovers of Jimmy Smith’s recordings and the more recent Daptone Records catalog, as much as it will appeal to the basic human need for mood music; every single one of those moods encapsulated here. Beginning with a cigarette and a drink and ending in a lover’s arms, this music is the score to a life lived without apology or regret. A soundtrack to the nude dance best performed alone in the bathroom mirror and the shoulder best for crying. Wholly appropriate since good music should never be something to apologize for creating or loving.

Words by Karas Lamb

Free MP3 Download of Nostalgia 77’s “Cherry”
Nostaglia 77 – “Cherry” by The Revivalist

For more information:
Cop the album here.


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