Summer! Yes! The temperature out there is way beyond 30, a few lazy clouds decorating the blue sky here and there, a nice little breeze is taking the edge off the heat, and the rest of the inconvenience is easily outbalanced with a nice Gin and Tonic, no fancy complications please.
The only thing missing would be music to match the mood, uplifting and nice, something that has the power to convince you to move one or the other muscle in all that heat and laziness, forming a smile, inducing a nod, maybe some wiggling of toes or even a foot.
In comes “Angel”, riding on super summery yellow vinyl, bringing us the most unexpected and classiest bit of Disco music since Nile Rodgers was still doing the Chic thing. I know, I know, it really doesn’t feel like we are on the verge of a huge Disco revival. But when it’s this good and this convincing it simply doesn’t matter.
This happy summer Disco moment really only happened because of one guy – Benedic Lamdin. Yes, the Nostalgia 77 guy. If you know that project you will certainly not stick a “Disco” label on it. If you don’t I suggest you read this next. Great album. When he announced this project I was thinking great, finally something new, it’s been a whopping eight years since the last Nostalgia 77 album.
Yes, yes, I know, this isn’t N77, very much not, and it’s not just Lamdin either. For the Telephone Man project he teams up with his good friend Nathaniel Pearn who usually records as DrumTalk, electronic music that leans a little towards House but I guess Pearn would kick me in the shin for saying that.
The story behind this project is quite interesting as it had been commissioned by KPM, a label that specialises in library music. An exercise in Disco. Nice thought. And it seems that Lamdin and Pearn had done such a good job that it turned into a non-library project. The Telephone Man name is a little bit of a problem on Discogs though – somewhere in the Nineties an Indie/Post Rock band of the same name released an EP and an album and now it looks like they came back as a Disco project.
One of the finest aspects of this project is how each of these two gentlemen have turned this thing into something special. Pearn’s DrumTalk project is clearly closer to the dancefloor than Lamdin which makes him sort of the man in charge of the groove, the bounce, the danceability. Lamdin as the Jazz guy in this partnership has always chosen the approach of a band leader, even if Nostalgia 77 isn’t really a band (except maybe as an octet on stage).
Consequently, the four fine pieces of dancefloor happiness aren’t something that was crafted with a studio full of electronic gadgets and synthesizers. There’s an eight piece string section that shows us in great style just how much better things sound when you choose to go for the real thing. Real percussions, piano, Rhodes, bass, guitar, drums, and yes, Pearn does add some synth, but mostly for adding flavor. 17 folks altogether, and they were obviously having a good time – apart from some subsequent studio magic the tracks were recorded live.
The label boldly states that this is “disco as it should be done” – and they are absolutely right. Not just because it is “touching the soul and lifting the spirit” but also because this is simply how Disco should sound, how it should be produced. Organic, warm, classy, lavish, made with love and care. Disco is best when it is presented as something precious, not as dancefloor fast food.
The way it was done is to a large part responsible for the wonderfully nostalgic aura surrounding the EP. If you could transport “Angel” back in time and slap the vinyl on any turntable of the era the crowd would be yours in no time. Super solid drums, exuberant strings, an effective piano theme, a totally authentic Disco vocal group – totally works.
“Burning” adds a slight touch of Moroder to the mix, slick work on the guitar and some nice work on keys where others would have simply thrown in an arpeggio from the memory bank, all nicely thrown along the path of energetic and effective motorik style drumming – you can just imagine the folks on the dancefloor forming groups and doing silly moves. And listen to those nice and cheesy pew-pew-pew synth sounds! Galactic!
The back side serves two versions of “Stand Up”, and when the drums kick in you almost suspect that some guy from Kool And The Gang might declare it’s time to celebrate. But then you get another round of fine string arrangements, a bouncy lively bass, classic Disco guitar work – apart from the occasional vocal contribution reminding us to stand up (probably to get our butts over to the dancefloor) it’s a lively instrumental excursion with something that could almost be labeled a cowbell solo.
Now it’s 9pm and the temperature is still somewhere above 25 degrees, and it’s about time to grab a nice sundowner. Another Gin and Tonic? Yeah, why not. And “Angel” one more time.
Release for review:
TELEPHONE MAN – ANGEL EP – TROPIC OF LOVE MUSIC – TOL002