on 12 March 2004
Nostalgia 77, by all accounts a bedroom studio-boffin, produces a brooding, claustrophobic - if sometimes derivative - debut. To tick a few boxes, this echoes some of DJ Shadow's sparser material, a more-reflective RJD2, 'Meiso'-period DJ Krush, a less-lush Broadway Project, DJ Cam, Bonobo and latter-day Four Tet - to name a few. A funereal concept runs through this record, which layers dark piano chords, scratching and chopped-up double bass over raw, methodical hip-hop beats. 'The Conventicle' splices gnarly guitar licks together over its gently building but malevolent four minutes while the more-upbeat 'Rain Walk' ends in spools of raw saxophone. Improvised sax makes a further appearance in Metamorphoses - which builds layers of fugged-up jazz over ominous, chain-gang-style chanting - while 'The Mirror' takes the funeral concept a step too far with some rather pretentious, ponderous vocals. Dirge, one of the album's best tracks, pitches haunted, vocal sighs against mutated sax squeals until you can't tell which is which. This is followed by 'The Funeral', which provides a kind of summary of the album's preceding styles over several fragmented sections. The album ends with 'The Beginning', which builds on light jazz loops and flutters of applause over an epic seven minutes into a bombastic, tripped-out finale. Sharing a common ground with both hip-hop instrumentalists (in particular, Mo'Wax-era DJ Krush) and recent contemporary electronica (such as Four Tet's 'Rounds' and Manitoba's 'Up in Flames') this provides a neat connection between the two while not quite attaining its own authenticity. It's a sparse, claustrophobic and, at times, slightly po-faced album - but definitely commendable.