The Sleepwalking Society
Released: 20th Mar, 2011
Label: Tru Thoughts
‘The Sleepwalking Society’ comes almost four years after ‘Everything Under The Sun’ – the last Nostalgia 77 studio album proper – in which time Benedic 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. Nostalgia 77’s fervent fanbase has been clamouring for his return and can now rest assured that it has been worth the wait, 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 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 and runs the whole range of influences from the different styles of music that he loves. “It feels great to provide another chapter in the Nostalgia 77 story…each time I return with more ideas and experiences from working on projects with other musicians”, says Lamdin.
The album announces its arrival with the ramshackle Tom Waits style stomp of the rhythm track to “Sleepwalker”, paired with horn textures reminiscent of Duke Ellington. The English folk of Bert Jansch influences “Beautiful Lie”; the single, “Simmerdown” (out 28th February) is one part church song and one part soul. “Golden Morning” – more interlude than song – is a shimmering ray of uplifting psychedelic folk to make the transition into “When Love Is Strange”, a full on break beat Sun Ra style arrangement that provides the heaviest moment on the record, care of Tim Giles’ heroic drumming. It echoes the ambitious, instrumental live jazz of Nostalgia 77 Octet, but heavier. And in addition to the aesthetic progression, in content ‘The Sleepwalking Society’ is the most autobiographical Nostalgia 77 work yet, drawing on the subjects of commitment (“Cherries”) and impending fatherhood (“Mockingbird”): very much more a songwriter’s album – a direction inspired significantly by his work producing for Jeb Loy Nichols.
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. “I was really taken with her. Josa has an amazing texture to her voice and an intention and intensity that I think is rare in singers these days”, Lamdin expounds. The welcome opposite of an auto-tuned voice for hire, Peit breathes colourful life into Lamdin’s creations; sensual, strong and earthly with a dusting of the ethereal and fanciful, and some bluesy subversions of note and melody. “You can hear a lot of different influences: I’m sure she would cite the great old American women of jazz, I also believe there’s a quirkiness and variety in her delivery that’s very modern too.”