Zero 7

Simple Things (Quango/Palm ’01) Rating: B+
Having read some glowing reviews of this album, I quickly grabbed it when I found it in a used cd store for a mere $6.00. The handwritten description on the album cover read “groove filled trip hop with not as dark melodies that's a little more on the pop side”, and I’d say that’s a fairly accurate (if not entirely a well-written) description of this debut album. Zero 7 are London DJ’s Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, who add three striking vocal talents (Mozez, whose ghostly voice reminds me of Seal, and Sia Furler & Sophia Barker, both of whom can match up to the likes of current soul-pop darlings like Alicia Keys with ease) to their own smoothly layered musical soundscapes. The result is a mostly downcast but always soulful album that has often been compared to Air, another DJ duo who make great use of guest vocal talent. Granted, they both deliver futuristic yet contemporary sounding mood music made for late nights when the party is over and it’s time to wind down (then again it also works extremely well poolside in the bright light of day), but comparisons with the moodier likes of Massive Attack and Morcheeba are equally easy to make. Besides, Zero 7 deserve to stand on their own, anyway. After all, the duo’s smartly cinematic, highly melodic music is almost always interesting and impressive, with singles such as “I Have Seen,” “Destiny,” “Distractions,” and “In The Waiting Line” perhaps standing out a little more than the rest. Actually, the album is about half vocal/half instrumental, and though the vocal half (including all the songs listed above) is generally superior, the instrumentals also serve their purpose - to get you to slowly bob your head and “chill out” - as well. This is background music, after all, and though 61 minutes (72 minutes if you include the two bonus tracks) of this stuff does get a little monotonous after awhile, the duo’s smoothly layered, soulful pop symphonies make for enjoyably sophisticated easy listening mood music.

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