Years ago I was rummaging through records at Rough Trade, basing impulse purchases on the template of beautiful artwork, I flicked to Zero 7‘s “Simple Things”, picked it up and took it home. This was years after its 2001 release date, but it still sounded inspired, and refreshing compared to the dwindling state of electronic music at the time. Zero 7 are British duo Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, though regularly take contributions from a perfect selection of vocalists.
Their forth album, Yeah Ghost, will step with much trepidation around the world. Fans loyal to their downtempo, post-clubbing bliss, will undoubtedly be shaken, in their mission to find the familiar sounds that they might recognize. Indeed “Mr. Mcgee” and “Medicine Man” lean worryingly close to Basement Jaxx, and this is just one aspect to the new Zero 7.
A handful of tracks stand tall alongside the masterpieces on “The Garden” or “Simple Things”; ‘Ghost Symbol”s glitchy, downtempo, techno could have been plucked from an Ellen Allien collaboration, instrumental interlude “Solastalgia” is post-rock through an electronica guise, and album-finale “All Of Us” nostalgically re-imagines the hypnotic melodies, lulling instrumentation, and beautifully layered productions, that haven’t been seen, like this, since “Simple Things”.
The album has shown the duo’s much desired need for experimentation, let unlike the kraut-rock influences that some critics have already cited, more so that experimentation sees them stepping too close to the mediocrity of bland pop. “Yeah Ghost” is certainly not without its moments; all of their beauty in melody-writing, and chill out production, combines with the soulful track “Swing”, and other fleeting moments that reflect their earlier work, stand out as classics. It is, however, in Zero 7’s desire for something new that their work feels soulless. Where this album shines, Zero 7 show they are still as capable as ever, in blending beautiful melodies, soothing beats, and soulful instrumentation, to create some of the best downtempo imagined, its just easy to wish it was as consistent as before.