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Zero 7 - The Garden

Zero 7, The Garden

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE blissful tones of Zero 7 return for the third time with The Garden, an upbeat slice of chillout that’s as beautifully crafted as ever.

Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns seem to have gone for a breezier outlook this time around, playing down the soul in favour of a sunnier feel as born out by several of the acoustic guitar riffs and the presence of a certain Jose Gonzales (he of Heartbeats fame).

Regular collaborator Sia Furler also returns, her husky tones still working wonders when set against the shimmering beats, while Binns himself makes his vocal debut, occasionally providing a nice contrast with Furler. But there’s no place for the likes of Mozez, Tina Dico or Sophie Barker – who have both enlivened the two successors.

That minor disappointment aside, The Garden blossoms into an enchanting listen that seems to have been constructed with the hazy days of the 70s in mind. Several tracks straddle the line between trip-hop and tripping hippies, juggling some laidback beats with fuzzy electric guitar solos, or folksy acoustic workouts.

Limited edition single, Futures, gets things started in exemplary fashion, wrapping the whispered tones of Jose Gonzales around some lush beats and some gorgeous acoustic chords that aren’t dissimilar from his heartfelt Heartbeats track. There’s a wistfulness about it that makes it excellent just to sink back and relax on the sofa with – or better still, a large sun-drenched field somewhere in the middle of summer.

Somewhat surprisingly, it veers into some urgent beats towards the end – but this merely hints at the breadth of ambition that the rest of the album delivers.

Current single, Throw It All Away follows impressively along in its wake, enlivened by some nice stabs of horn and a dreamy chorus that’s delivered in unmistakeable fashion by Furler. The acoustic riffs are vibrant and work well against some mandolin, while the overall vibe is more akin to the summery trip-hop style of Morcheeba than much of Zero 7’s brand of after-hours chill-out.

From then onwards, there’s the occasional instrumental and a whole lot of Sia and Jose doing what they arguably do best. Tracks to look out for include Pageant Of The Bizarre, which sets a number of lazy, almost surreal beats against Sia’s excellent vocals (which talk of catching falling stars and such things). It’s utterly beguiling.

There’s a haunting element to Left Behind, a stripped-down Jose Gonzales collaboration that seems to caress the ear-drums as effortlessly as a cool breeze on a hot day, while Sia and Binns team up for an excellent boy-girl trade off on the supremely satisfying This Fine Social Scene.

When Jose sings “catch some light, it’ll be alright” on the funked up version of his own track, Crosses, you’ll probably be ready to agree with the sentiment – for this is all about casting some light on the musical horizon.

As summer struggles to break through, Zero 7 have delivered a shimmering piece of musical excellence that’s effortlessly capable of bringing a chilled out sunshine vibe into the darkest day. It’s an extremely welcome return for them.

Track listing:

  1. Futures – Zero 7 & Jose Gonzales
  2. Throw It All Away – Zero 7 & Sia
  3. Seeing Things – Zero 7
  4. Pageant Of The Bizarre – Zero 7 & Sia
  5. You’re My Flame – Zero 7 & Sia
  6. Left Behind – Zero 7 & Jose Gonzales
  7. Today – Zero 7 & Jose Gonzales
  8. This Fine Social Scene – Zero 7 & Sia
  9. Your Place – Zero 7
  10. If I Can’t Have You – Zero 7 & Sia
  11. Crosses – Zero 7 & Jose Gonzales
  12. Waiting To Die – Zero 7