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Zero 7 - E.P.3’ (Review)

Zero 7, E.P.3’.

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FOLLOWING the release of their ‘Simple Science’ EP in August last year, Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns, better known as Zero 7, return with another masterful collection of chilled out songs.

E.P.3, the name, is a nod to their very early, pre-major label days and the very first music they released but, instrumentally, is the sound of a group that have evolved without losing any of their beauty.

Best known for their Simple Things chill-out classic that boasted collaborations with Sia Furler and tracks like Destiny and In The Waiting Line, E.P.3 shows that the duo have lost none of the art of attracting a good collaborator or an intoxicatingly entrancing chill-out beat or slice of electronica.

On opening track 400 Blows, for instance, Australia’‘s Danny Pratt features to sublime effect. The track finds Hardaker and Binns positioning soft electronics alongside some gorgeous piano passages, all stitched together with their wonderfully atmospheric, cinematic production. Pratt, for his part, drops a vocal that combines anguish (“it’s not a way to take away your pain… and you still won’t leave me in peace”) with Robert Smith meets Charlie Fink-style comparisons. The handclap beat provides a nicely insistent hook too.

Second track ‘The Colour of Spring sees London’‘s Only Girl lending her luscious, dulcet voice to the track’s dark, brooding soundscapes perfectly. It’s a late night offering, if ever there was one, that combines an atmospheric slice of piano with wildlife sounds and those beautifully ethereal vocals. The piano and electric guitar elements are particularly exquisite and vaguely lean towards a Mogwai sound.

The inimitable José González then features on ‘Last Light’, the third track, which is wrapped in the laidback beauty we’ve come to expect from both artists. A stark, sombre piano underpins the vocals on this one, along with the sounds of the street (such as children laughing), creating a beguiling and no-less intoxicating track that’s steeped in cinematic qualities. There’s a sadness, too, that is utterly compelling.

In contrast, the instrumental ‘Crush Tape’ is a wonderful, experimental electronic instrumental, closing the vinyl EP in excellent fashion, with synth rushes, hand-clap beats and smart slices of organ. It’s again cinematic but also effortlessly cool and hip, boasting a toe-tapping dance-floor quality that showcases Zero 7’s ability to be able to funk things up when the mood takes them.

The download version of the EP also includes a fifth track, a remix of ‘400 Blows’ by the Cape Town based, John Wizards. In truth, it doesn’t add too much to the original and is quite experimental in its approach, almost deconstructing the beauty in favour of wishy-washy synth arrangements and nagging percussion. But midway through it then funks things up and veers off into something no-less experimental but infinitely more interesting. It’s fascinating but deeply flawed.

Minor blip aside, however, E.P.3 is a wonderful return from Zero 7 that hopefully will pre-empt a full album soon.

Track listing:

  1. 400 Blows
  2. The Colour of Spring
  3. Last Light
  4. Crush Tape
  5. 400 Blows John Wizards Remix (Download version only)