The brainchild of UK producer Ben Lamdin, Nostalgia 77, creates an impressive stew of jazz, folk and soul on its fourth studio album, The Sleepwalking Society. The scratchy alto floating between the smooth sounds is German vocalist Josa Peit. Though the tunes at times hint at Bebel Gilberto’s Bossa Nova, Peit’s voice is never so pristine. Lending a sultrier feel adds some much-needed edge to a sometimes too sleepy album. Though producing hip-hop with its jazz samples helped lead Lamdin to a more flushed out jazz sound on his previous projects, the funk and hip-hop are stripped away on this set. The concoction is, however, right in line with the demolition and rebirth of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” he created for Alice Russell in 2004, taking something you know and helping you appreciate it in a brand new way. Instead of just covering a song, he manages to cover an entire genre.The hazy, jazzy beauty is consistent from beginning to end, particularly on songs like “Sleepwalker” and “Beautiful Lie.” Beauty is an unstated commonality, even on the bouncy instrumental “When Love Is Strange.” Totaling just 9 songs, The Sleepwalking Society still manages to feel too long. By the time the singer intones “lullaby, lullaby” on “Mockingbird,” you’re ready to press pause and curl up in bed.
Lamdin is nothing if not a chameleon, so he can’t be faulted for avoiding a musical fusion well he’s dipped in plenty of times. But the dreamy simplicity of The Sleepwalking Society is almost too much of a good thing. It finds that smooth groove and doesn’t let go to the detriment of sustaining the listener’s interest. Though the album hits all the right notes, the muted horns, understated strings and whispery vocalist with major funk potential leaves you nostalgic for something more.