15 April 2013

Zero 7 - Simple Things

For an electronica act, the works of studio engineers Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker are long and reasonably varied. They are the nucleus of Zero 7 and their production credits roll off an impressive resume, Pet Shop Boys, Radiohead, Robert Plant and Lenny Kravitz for a kickoff. It would seem taken as granted to be easy by applying those skills to your own work. Binns and Hardaker have carved out a niche of not necessarily finding every woodwind and stringed instrument imaginable and then playing them to death, but multi-layering, perhaps as a one-step-at-a-time-policy as the album title Simple Things suggests.

To date Zero 7 have recorded four albums in their name and this first offering Simple Things comes across as wanting to make a statement. The whole album can be summed up by the numerous musicians involved in each track, each playing to their strengths. Sia Furler, Sophie Barker and Mozez aren't exactly household names that are easy rolled off the tongue but they're sold on talent. Barker with her fluent soft tones, Furler as an assured but delicate voice and Mozez as a soulful and nostalgic entity.

I Have Seen sets the scene with an easy going approach while Polaris reaches us with the some of the same, but dark but flowing filler. Destiny is a statement of a long distance relationship filled with much poignancy and longing but with hope. The vocals of Furler (verses) and Barker (chorus) complement each other well. The rest of the album runs along more or the same vein of electronic loops, the occasional bleep and acoustic strings which are at times uplifting but not sending you to dizzying heights. Easy listening and yet enough to run for so long without losing your attention. There are however some moments, Distractions for example, which remind you politely that not everything in life is sweetness and light. Diversity-wise, Likufanele stands out with an Southern African choral combo running the show while Out Of Town has Bacharach etched all over the wall.

Sadly, Saltwater Sound and Spinning are only available on the U.S. release. It's a great shame because they are a personal favourite of mine or this album would have had full marks from me. Nevertheless, Simple Things, while not being the greatest electronica album ever, is a strong debut from Binns and Hardaker and an uplifting piece that makes us all feel thankful for the basic comforts in life.  M. Richardson 15.04.2013

9 out of 10. Almost perfect...Almost.

You can purchase the album here

You can listen to the whole album here

No official website, but you can follow Zero 7's activities on their Facebook page.

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