The mostly acoustic brainchild of U.K. producer Ben Lamdin, Nostalgia 77 frames vibrant, late-'60s soul jazz and sinister, mid-'70s fusion in the context of modern funk and hip-hop. If the concept seems academic, that's because it is -- but only a meticulous po-mo auteur could fashion such a compelling, ferociously cool time warp. Lamdin focused more on digital dance beats in previous efforts, but this Garden sounds purely organic: Where "After Ararat" percolates with Afro-Latin polyrhythms and baritone sax, "Freedom" lock-steps with a rigid drum 'n' bells break and swinging horn section, and "Green Blades of Grass" shimmies with a wiry electric guitar riff, drunken trumpet, and loose, upright bass. N77's cover of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" might get top billing for name recognition; the song stomps like hepcat Kong with Alice Russel's husky vocals, a monstrous bass line, and wicked horn finale. But Lamdin's most unrelenting, pulse-pounding genius shows up early with album opener "Cheney Lane." Rugged Afrobeat horns, nimble jazz flute, slinky JBs guitar, and a neck-snapping beat take this one into the books. As an opener, it's almost too monumental. The rest of the album -- brilliant as it is -- only barely measures up.
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