Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Zero 7: When It Falls
Rating 3.6/5
A version forthcoming in

Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker are Zero 7, a duo oddly named after an obscure South American nightclub. The two came through the ranks as London studio engineers along with then-unknown Nigel Godrich. They gained initial recognition with a stellar remix of Radiohead’s “Climbing up the Walls,” (commissioned by Godrich while producing The Bends) followed by their 2001 release Simple Things. Though accused of being Air sans irony, the debut was packed with meandering Moogs, orchestral arrangements and stunning vocal performances, quickly rising in the charts to become a summertime downtempo favorite in the UK. The record illustrated a deep knowledge of seventies soul and R&B, updated with synths, horns and an overwhelmingly warm and well-studied production sound. Simple Things then became omnipresent; it had the ever-important street cred— A favorite of BBC Worldwide DJ Gilles Peterson—while simultaneously being available for public consumption in gastropubs and fashionable high street boutiques before making a strong stateside appearance. This widespread popularity could have been a curse, but instead, Henry and Sam had the backbone to appreciate they are indeed onto something.

The same techniques and approach from Simple Things have been used on their second release, When It Falls. It’s a fluid continuation and contrary to some of the recent music press, this is not a bad thing. Put simply, Zero 7 have created a winning formula and stick to their guns--the vocal collaborators from the first record, Mozez, Sophie Barker and Sia Furler, appear again with the sole addition of Tina Dico-- who adds her smoky voice to the folk-acoustic guitar, restrained trumpet and gentle electronic cadence of “Home.” Album opener “Warm Sounds,” featuring Mozez, is everything you enjoyed about Simple Things: warm Rhodes tones, flute, strings, with the only noticeable difference being a slightly more mature arrangement. It would be simply wrong to file this under the ever-increasing pile of empty chillout/downtempo releases. Rather, When It Falls serves as a perfect soundtrack to hazy summer evening layabouts. Take it in gradually, let it breathe a bit, and enjoy. (CJN)

Trevor Loveys- Intastella
Freerange Records
Release: 17th May

One half of the jump-up house duo Switch, Instastella is Trevor Lovey’s debut record for Freerange records, having also recorded for various labels including Nuphonic, Frontroom and Ephemeral. The record is far from being straightforward 4/4 though—-it features the characteristic spring of jazz-funk house, but also soulful downtempo contrasted with chopped-up sample-based cuts verging on broken beat territory. The first single, “The Bounce” can best be described as new school disco without the kitch element cluttering up record bins as of late. Emphasis is placed on the infectious rubbery bassline and the use of heavily filtered samples. The records' finest moment comes from a vocal performance by Louise Dumberton on “Elevate Your Mind,” --think Recloose-esque beats and synth stabs bathed in warm, swirling tones with subtle echo applied. Further demonstrating the eclecism of Intastella, “Dynamite” is a tune that will undoubtedly appeal to the cut-up party breaks set. (CJN)