Review : Zero 7 - Record
PopmattersZero 7 have never been a band known for smash hits and major singles. Their albums tend to be cohesive, downtempo electronic affairs. Primary composers, Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker achieved commercial and critical success with their 2001 debut, the Mercury Music Prize-nominated Simple Things. Yet, as time has passed, from that release till last year’s, Yeah Ghost, Zero 7 have seen a waning of both personal (e.g. mine) and critical opinion. Despite working with a diverse pool of collaborators and guest vocalists (including Sia Furler, Tina Dico and Jose Gonzalez) across a total of four full length albums, Zero 7’s greatest hits leans heavily on their first, capturing their broad essence yet failing to convince anyone that this is a must own. It might instead serve as a primer for Simple Things, a charming atmospheric album many picked up after hearing “In the Waiting Line” as an official Zach Braff selection on the Garden State soundtrack.
The disc is not arranged chronologically, but, whatever the organization, the chosen songs diligently represent Zero 7’s atmosphere and it leans towards more vocal-centered tracks that define their later albums. The folksy sound of “Futures” and “I Have Seen” open the compilation, with the male vocalists (Gonzalez and Mozez) warm tones inviting the listener in. They are followed by the perfect refined production, “You’re My Flame”, more upbeat but enhancing Furler’s sweet, honest illustrations, of the innocent pleasures of her affection, and setting them forward. It’s still well within the Zero 7 atmosphere and suits the background music of a picnic or a Sunday brunch.
Next comes “Destiny”, which along with “In the Waiting Line” later, are the strongest, most outstanding examples of the band’s warm ambiance and likely their most recognizable. The “Destiny” music video earned a lot of airplay for its rotoscoping visual technique. These two are included with five other songs from Simple Things (which is half of that entire album). Excluded are a couple of Simple Things’ great instrumentals, “Give it Away” and “Likufanele”, though perhaps this was a conscious decision preferable to neglecting any guest vocalist from their greatest hits album. Or simply rational since three other instrumentals from the same album (“Polaris”, “Salt Water Sound” and “End Theme”) are already included....full text
BbcZero 7's fourth album, despite containing a fair smattering of Ovaltine for the ears, marks a distinct change. Yeah Ghost is a schizophrenic offering that draws heavily on pop and rhythm, stuffed with all the right shapes but crucially lacking the vision that held Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker's post-clubbing world together back in the day.
As a mission statement, second track Mr Mcgee is pretty startling: it comes across more like a Basement Jaxx stomper, with vocalist Eska Mtungwazi contributing to its infectious call-and-response structure. But then it's on to the drifting, lilting Swing, with multi-tracked harmonies that wouldn't seem out of place on an early Air track. Having two disparate styles roughly placed together, though, signals a crisis of identity rather than a master plan.
The duo's sound engineer roots come through on their sonically adventurous moments. There's plenty here to get smokers frowning, such as instrumental tidbits Count Me Out and Solastalgia, where subdued electronica tastefully entices. The aural trickery of Ghost sYMbOl, meanwhile, will have you staring round the room wondering if that's your mobile going off; but its pitch-shifted vocals are a direct lift from the less-comforting work of superior Swedish pair The Knife....full text
MusicomhThat big coat has been hung up in the wardrobe, you're starting to drink cider instead of your usual pint of Guinness and everywhere you look there are adverts about the World Cup. Summer must be around the corner and what better soundtrack could there be to mark the onset of all those long hot days than a new album from Zero 7.
One-time sound engineers Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns are back with their first full length release since the outstanding When It Falls in 2004 and there are not too many surprises as the same cool brand of soulful electronica is laid out on the table.
Recorded in the Somerset countryside with former college mate Nigel Godrich, who's also been a busy boy working on Thom Yorke's upcoming debut solo album, the duo have recruited the usual array of vocal talent to supplement their breezy soundscapes.
Australian singer, and Zero 7 mainstay, Sia Furler is back for the third time although this time around there is no Sophie Barker or, particularly unfortunately, no Tina Dico, the Dane now enjoying success with her debut solo effort. Dico may not feature but another Scandinavian currently making waves does....full text
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