Zero 7 Simple Things

[Palm Pictures; 2001]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: downtempo, trip-hop, electronica, acid jazz
Others: Morcheeba, Air, DJ Cam, Bob James

Zero 7 is essentially Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker. The duo's debut full-length, Simple Things, is a moody and engaging affair. Chock full of jazz, funk, hip-hop, and soul, the record bleeds together the past and the not-so-distant future into a squeaky clean, 70-plus minutes of unadulterated music.

Most tracks are comprised of similar head-nodding drum beats, minor-ish jazz chords, intricate rhythm play, and a wealth of studio effects. These ingredients create a watery ambience over a tight rhythm section, juxtaposing the two elements in musical heaven. The album's strength is derived from the consistent mood painted throughout. With its calculated song structures and seemingly forced ambience, the album has an incredibly lush and sensual mystique to it, but stays musically focused. Standout tracks are the title track, with its hip-hop beats, soft keyboards, and moody violins; and the incredibly moving "This World," reminiscent of Portishead's trip-hop demeanor.

The album is shy from brilliant, though. Yes, the album is complex, engaging, and downright trippy, but it just doesn't have enough originality and creativity to bring you to say, "this record is absolutely stunning."

For you structured types, about half of the songs contain vocals, while the rest are instrumental. The main vocalists are Mozes, Sia Furler, and Sophie Barker-- all blessed with extremely soulful voices. Though, the different voices give the album almost too much vocal variation and somewhat disorients upon the first few hearings. The album evokes a distinct relation to music from the past, yet sounds undeniably modern. Beta Band and Mellow can be discerned from "I Have Seen," and French act Air is dabbled throughout most of the album. It's probably safe to assume that Fiona Apple wasn't their main inspiration, but I can't help but be reminded of the better songs on Tidal in "Destiny" and "Distractions".

Simple Things is not the kind of album that draws you into its mood. It's the kind of album that compliments and accentuates the mood you are in. Ranging from amazing to mediocrity, the album provides the perfect background to kick back with a fat cigar in between your lips. And although it may not be "absolutely stunning," Zero 7 has definitely started off on a somewhat decent path.

1. I Have Seen
2. Polaris
3. Destiny
4. Give It Away
5. Simple Things
6. Red Dust
7. Distractions
8. In the Waiting Line
9. Out of Town
10. This World
11. Likufanele
12. End Theme
13. Spinning
14. Spinning

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