BY JOHN C. TRIPP
There’s a gentle, organic and soulful spirit to Nostalgia 77’s fourth studio album “The Sleepwalking Society”. With vocalist Josa Peit giving a wistful and heartfelt voice to the band leader Benedic Lamdin’s organic compositions it’s an album that exhibits tremendous song writing and musicianship.
Nostalgia 77 has masterfully crafted an album of introspective, personal and timeless music on “The Sleepwalking Society.” It’s a sound that delicately fits amongst various genres of jazz, folk, blues and soul, all the while being highly enjoyable and rewarding listening.
In the four years since the last Nostalgia 77 studio album Lamdin has been busy as producer, engineer, musician and more on projects involving Keith and Julie Tippett, Jeb Loy Nichols, Lizzy Parks, Larry Stabbins, Alice Russell, Sara Mitra, Fringe Magnetic, Golden Age of Steam and his own Octet.
The wait has born great results, as the spoils of those extra-curricular excursions inform a refreshed stylistic palette and intensity on the new LP. Although Nostalgia 77 is widely known as a jazz producer (with plaudits including the the John Peel ‘Play More Jazz’ award, and Gilles Peterson’s Jazz Track of the Year) ‘The Sleepwalking Society’ is rich with overtones of blues and folk.
Download Nostalgia 77′s track “Cherry” here, and stream it below
Key to the structure and cohesion of the album was Lamdin’s decision to work with just one vocalist, where he has previously called on a handful of featured singers. The invigoratingly rich-voiced Josa Peit takes on this role like she was born to do it.
‘The Sleepwalking Society’ is also the most autobiographical Nostalgia 77 work yet, drawing on the subjects of commitment (“Cherries”) and fatherhood (“Mockingbird”): very much more a songwriter’s album – a direction inspired significantly by his work producing for Jeb Loy Nichols.
Nostalgia 77 is backed by the accomplished and seasoned musicianship of Lamdin on guitar, keys and percussion, Tim Giles, piano and organ, Ross Stanley, sax and clarinet, James Alsopp, flute by Mark Hanslip, cello by Natalie Rosario, bass and string arrangements by Riaan Vosloo and others.
MundoVibe: You are clearly a very busy man with roles as producer, engineer, musician and record label owner. How did you manage to produce another Nostalgia 77 record amongst all of this activity?
Nostalgia 77: Well it didn’t happen over night! Basically i think i spent about two years in total, writing and demoing the songs before recording and mixing the final record. The record was recorded episodically, both through circumstance of having many other things to do and also because after each of the first runs of demo’s and recordings a lot of things were discarded because they either didn’t work or didn’t fit. So I eventually had all the rhythm section stuff sorted, then we did final vocals and added the other instruments… strings and horn, etc.
MV: It’s been four years since Nostalgia 77’s last release ‘Everything
Under The Sun’. What’s changed since then?
Nostalgia 77: I guess the main change has been that since the last Nostalgia record I’ve done a whole host or engineering and work for other projects and other people. Inevitably I think this influences you, either by giving you a fresh set of influences and aspirations or just though improving your perspective on your own work. I guess through all these jobs I’ve also met a broader pool of musicians a lot of who have ended up helping me with this latest record too.
MV: There’s a certain timelessness and moodiness to your music, something hard to pinpoint. What concepts and ideas shape this sound?
Nostalgia 77: I don’t have any concept that I work towards, so I guess if there’s an atmosphere or mood that seems pervasive through all the work then that’s just the kind of atmosphere that I feel drawn to. When I hit on something that resonates with me it sticks and I’ll go on to develop it into a finished piece. There are definitely some reaccuring themes like memory / forgetting which
seeded to come out prominantly on the latest record. However I feel that these things need to just emerge to feel natural. I can’t write to theme without feeling contrived.
MV: On ‘The Sleepwalking Society’ the songs have an acoustic, folk and blues sound. How did this come about?
Nostalgia 77: I think this mainly happened because all the songs can off the guitar. In the past I’ve done some writing on piano… things have been more instrumental concepts that have turned into songs and these seem to have a different flavor to my songs that are written on the guitar.
MV: The songs on ‘The Sleepwalking Society’ deal with human issues such as fatherhood, loss, love, trust. How did the lyrics and songs take shape with these themes?
As I’ve just become a father for the first time the fatherhood theme is kind of obvious but i think it also makes you reflect on all those other important emotions that you mention. When you examine any of the ideas you mention I think you find that each one has an element of the others inside it. We can’t examine love for example without thinking about loss, trust even fatherhood! I think what interests me and what i think is started to be a recurring theme in the
songs is that state of flux or tension that exists in most emotional states.
MV: The vocals of German singer Josa Peit are up front and center on this album, she seems a natural fit. How was it working with her?
Nostalgia 77: I was very luck that Josa got in touch with me at the time when i was writing these songs and looking for the right collaborator. It was very easy to think about the songs with her and she did a great job of inhabiting them and giving them a voice.
MV: There are just a couple of instrumental tracks here which are more “jazz” as one might normally think of it. Your thoughts?
Nostalgia 77: I actually wrote several more instrumental themes but when it came to balancing the LP I felt that I needed to keep the voice and the intensity we found in the songs pretty constant throughout. The two instrumentals to me feel like good responses or counter balances to the songs that precede them.
MV: What do you want your music to convey in terms of mood and sound?
Nostalgia 77: Difficult question: I think I just want each piece I work on to be emotional. What the emotion is I think is less important. I just want to feel connected with the music, if I feel that connection perhaps other people will too.
MV: Do you see what you’re doing as part of any sort of larger music scene? It seems that your music is kind of its own genre.
Nostalgia 77: I guess I’d agree that my music doesn’t always fit easily into a genre. One foot in the retro beat scene perhaps, a toe in the jazz scene because of the musicians I work with, although I couldn’t call these jazz records and they are certainly different to what people at the cutting edge of the jazz scene are doing. People draw comparisons to the lounge or downbeat scene too. I guess
categories are a necessary evil if we want to put out music in shops and bid for peoples pounds.
I believe that people see past this when it comes to listening. When we listen to music that’s when we feel it and respond or not. When we respond and feel the music there’s no room left in our heads for categories.
MV: You’ve gained favor with critics and DJs alike. How does it feel to have the approval of both?
Nostalgia 77: It’s always flattering to have considered praise and to feel listened to.
MV: It seems that much music today is consumed and disposed of almost simultaneously. Are you creating what you feel is more timeless music?
Nostalgia 77: No. I just make music. I think if we’re lucky every so often a bit of art flies off that may out live us. Normally I think what we do is drowned in the hubbub of everything that’s going on. May be once every few years we do something better.
MV: Is there a meaning to the album’s title “The Sleepwalking Society”, a statement on how we seem to be sleepwalking through life?
Nostalgia 77: There’s no meaning behind the title. Me and Josa were discussing Sleepwalking… that’s where the title track came from and the LP title followed that. I guess I liked the image of a club for sleepwalkers, a hidden society of sonambulists, but of course we enjoy the social dig too.
MV: What will the live form of Nostalgia 77 be like?
Nostalgia 77: The live band is a 7 piece made up of the guys who tracked the record with me. We’re playing the record pretty straight up but with a few side steps into some old instrumental tunes. It’s a great bunch of people to play with. Every ones’ got lots of fire.
MV: Since you do some many things related to music, what ties it all together?
Nostalgia 77: I guess I just love the feeling of working towards something. Whether it’s my own music, a band I’m helping produce or engineer, an act for our label… what ever, I love that excitiment of imagining something and then bringing it into existence.
MV: You worked with some new artists on this recording. How was this experience?
Nostalgia 77: It’s always great to work with new people, it takes time to find a shared language but it’s great to hear how different musicians can bring the music into being in such different ways.
MV: You site your work as a producer for Jeb Loy Nichols as an influence on this recording. How so?
Nostalgia 77: Jeb has been a big influence. He’s a fantastic person to work with and very inspiring. Working on his record definitely pushed me towards writing more songs on this current LP. Doing this record was a good experience a s it also established the team that I work a lot with now. Riaan Vosloo the bass player, arranged and MD and Tim Giles – an amazing drummer. I think in
production there’s no question that the people you work with are always the greatest driver behind the sound and the creativity.
Listen to “The Sleepwalking Society” at KCRW
01. Sleepwalker 3;47
02. Beautiful Lie 4:07
03. Simmerdown 3:27
04. Golden Morning 2:12
05. When Love IS Strange 3:04
06. Blue Shadow 3:41
07. Mockingbird 4:58
08. Cherry 4:08
09. Hush 8:47
Mix by Benedic Lamdin for Wax Poetics magazine:
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