Zero 7 – The Garden

By on Tuesday, 6th June 2006 at 12:19 pm

Zero 7’s third studio album has just been released, and marks a change in direction for the band, introducing more lyrics and a slightly livelier sound. They welcome back South Australian chanteuse Sia Furler, the duo’s long-standing vocalist who sings on five tracks, along with Swedish indie-folkie Jose Gonzalez who sings on four tracks.

First track and debut single “Futures” sees a return to their debut album, “Simple Things”, with Jose’s voice making the song perfect for the summery days. His voice is just perfect for the tracks – laidback and carefree, not rushing or any sense of urgency – just gentle, and relaxed. “Futures” soon makes way for “Throw it All Away” which has a relatively upbeat sound, and along with Sia’s lyrics makes a more upbeat festival track for lazy afternoons lounging around on a field at a festival.

Third track is an instrumental, and throws everything away that they’ve just built up in the first tracks. Energetic, with traditional drumming and modern electronics, “Seeing Things” shows that Zero 7 just can’t be pigeon-holed into any one musical genre. The track then descends into gentle guitars sounding like water in a stream, becoming extremely relaxing. However the opposite can be said of “The Pageant of the Bizarre” which left me feeling frankly nauseous – the track sounds like a merry-go-round which just won’t stop going round, the whole world becoming a blur.

“Left behind” is typical Jose Gonzalez material – a basic acoustic guitar and Jose’s simple lyrics and raw style oozing over us. There are a few electronics to add atmosphere, but in the time it takes you to get into the track its over at only 1 minute 17 seconds. “This Fine social scene” sounds like Air mixed with brilliant afro-carribean singers that give the song a bit of extra oomph.

However, for me the highlight comes just before the end with a new take on Jose Gonzalez’s “Crosses” – the original was already a gem, but this even more so. The addition of funky electronics add an extra layer of simple elegance, and make it all the better for it. An absolute gem, and shows what Zero 7 is truly capable of.

Album closer “Waiting to die” echoes earlier Zero7 with a bit of Morcheeba and Air thrown in for good measure and a bit of atmosphere. Lots of brass instruments gives it some character and makes it a great upbeat album closer.

Overall it’s a strong third album from the chillout kings, and marks a bit of a departure from their previous works. Some people will prefer it to their previous two albums, but personally I prefer their more instrumental albums rather than this one – some tracks are absolute gems (Seeing Things, Left Behind and Crosses) whilst some just haven’t got any magic in them (The Pageant of the Bizarre). All in all a good album with a good progression on from previous albums, however not a classic or a mercury prize nominee.c or a mercury prize nominee.

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