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Nostalgia 77 Songs for My Funeral Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Jazz licks, hip-hop beats and an interest in mortality make for a winning combination...

Peter Marsh 2004

Jazz and electronica are uneasy bedfellows. One is unpredictable, concerned with the moment, while the other is deterministic, concerned with texture and the extraction of emotions from binary code and varying voltages. Well, sort of.

While there are many who are managing to broker some kind of alliance between the two forms, the temptation for a lot of bedroom boffins is simply to fire up their samplers and nick what they want from some obscure jazz records. It's the easy way out; all the blood and fire (plus a spot of cultural cred)without the pain of actually having to deal with real musicians (though of course, you might have to deal with their lawyers if you're unlucky)...

As ever though it's the exceptions that prove the rule, and here's one. Nostalgia 77is one of the few to buck the trend and come up with something rich and strange. Like early Broadway Project or some of Four Tet's output,Songs For My Funeralmanages to graft a personal vision from whirring hard disks and the frozen contributions of long dead or forgotten saxophonists and funky drummers.

Unlike many of his peers, Nostalgia 77spurns the blissed-out ecstasies of Alice Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders in favour of a darker muse. Gloomy, impasssioned blasts of tenor snake their way over dread-full, slo-mo beats; dark, thrumming bass lines; wisps of guitar; clouds of vibes or a roomful of forlorn pianos ripple away miserably to themselves. Imagine a New Orleans funeral procession headed up by Albert Ayler or David Murray, with a heavily sedated funk rhythm section marking out time in the rear, and you'll be close.

Songs for my Funeral's bruised, sometimes angry sound offers more than the easy listening fusions of much Ninja Tune output, for example. Even when upbeat soul jazz grooves are hinted at (as on "The Beginning"), there's a humid, opressive vibe to the proceedings which unsettles rather than reassures. You're unlikely to hear it in your local Starbucks on a Saturday afternoon, which can only be a good thing in my humble opinion. Good stuff.

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