Nostalgia 77

A Journey too Far

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Ben Lamdin introduced vocalist Josa Peit to Nostalgia 77's audiences on 2011's excellent pop-jazz offering Sleepwalking Society. Her throaty yet breezy alto was the perfect companion for his horn and keyboard-rich ensemble. A Journey Too Far, their second album-length offering, is arresting. It's also -- as has come to be expected from the producer, composer, and conceptualist -- a musically different animal than any of his previous albums. Here, psychedelic pop and soul, cinematic jazz and blues, and more contribute to this septet's already expansive palette. Opener "What Do You Know" is rambling, funky horns and Rhodes-driven jazz-pop, with cinematic undertones and explosive, swirling, rhythmic strings (think Richard Evans). Peit's smoky voice fills the track's spaces, but never oversells the lyric. "Your Love Weighs a Tonne" is grimy, bluesy, psych-flavored soul that could have come from an early-'70s British film score. Her singing is as beat-conscious as it is expressive: she hits the band's deep punchy grooves, settles in, and works it hard before vocalizing in an intoxicated fashion on the refrain. "Ramshackle Rose" is raw souled-out funk, with Lamdin's guitar vying for domination with Tim Giles' tight breaks. Fulvio Sigurta's trumpets, though low-key, add a color that makes the entire proceeding soar. It's the only track where the band supercedes Peit's delivery. Though Jeb Loy Nichols appears twice here, including on the reggae-tinged "Don't Run," his presence is an outlier; it feels out of place in this collection. Pre-release single "An Angel with No Halo" is an elegant, off-kilter ballad that walks a line between psychedelic folk and Jimmy Webb-esque pop. "One" openly suggests the folk-soul of Minnie Riperton as married to a string chart by Charles Stepney -- but the melody and harmonies bear Lamdin's signature while Peit's performance pays a subtle tribute to Dusty Springfield as well. The acoustic duet between his slide guitar and her rootsy, tender vocal on closer "Like Dark to Light" sends the set off on a tender, sexy whisper. A Journey Too Far is decidedly retro, but Lamdin's career has been one of looking back, combining elements he finds there, and creating something unmistakably Nostalgia 77's. That is certainly the case here, where colors, timbres, textures, genres, and spaces are utilized to (mostly) magnificent effect.

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