The debut album from North London trip-hop duo Zero 7 -- Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns.

Simple Things (2001, Ultimate Dilemma)

  1. I Have Seen (R. Philips; Vocals Mozez)
  2. Polaris (H. Binns, S. Hardaker)
  3. Destiny (H. Binns, S. Hardaker, S. Barker, S. Furler; Vocals Sia Furler & Sophie Barker)
  4. Give It Away (H. Binns, S. Hardaker)
  5. Simple Things (H. Binns, S. Hardaker, O. Wright; Vocals Mozez)
  6. Red Dust (H. Binns, S. Hardaker)
  7. Distractions (H. Binns, S. Hardaker, S. Furler; Vocals Sia Furler)
  8. In the Waiting Line (H. Binns, S. Hardaker, S. Barker; Vocals Sophie Barker)
  9. Out of Town (H. Binns, S. Hardaker)
  10. This World (H. Binns, S. Hardaker, O. Wright; Vocals Mozez)
  11. Likufanele (Philani Mothers)
  12. End Theme (D. Runswick)

When Zero 7 are mentioned, comparisons to French producers Air are frequent. There are similarities; Air's fantastic 1998 album Moon Safari gave them a reputation for creating rich, soulful compositions based around infectious melodies and basslines, with trademark hazy synths and sweeping strings, and all of these are present on Simple Things. However, Hardaker and Binns have infused this album with their own unique sound, laying to rest any accusations of copycat tactics. The vocoder robots of Moon Safari and 10,000Hz Legend are rusting in the corner, replaced by laid-back vocals. This coupled with crisp drumloops and hooks that rival Benoit and Godin's finest work.

The opener, and the first single to be taken from the album, is I Have Seen, a wistful track built around a biting drumbeat and a simple yet effective bassline, with Mozez giving focus to the soaring strings with a soulful vocal. Polaris puts me in mind of a Bond Film... I can't quite put my finger on which one. It ambles along in a casual style until the pace is upped by a funky riff. Sia Furler and Sophie Barker provide bewitching harmonies for Destiny, a summery track complemented by an excellent guitar part which was a well-recieved second single.

Give it Away is one of the strongest tracks for me, based around a few simple but very effective piano/guitar riffs. The title track, voiced again by Mozez, is a downbeat string-laden affair, and Red Dust builds from simple piano to incorporate a soaring flute solo - and even AirTM handclaps! Amazingly they get away with them.

Distractions is sung by Sia and is a bittersweet tale of love and, er, divorce. In the Waiting Line, the third single (thanks seony!) features a practically horizontal vocal from Sophie Barker, and Out of Town is a nice track built around a simple trumpet melody . This World grows from piano 'n' vocals (supplied again by Mozez) to a full blown choral/string piece, uplifting in a slightly corny kinda way. Likufanele features a sample from an African vocal group and has a dreamy ambience to it. Finally, End Theme is an utterly fantastic closer. Built around an energetic pizzicato string part with urgent drums, it rises and falls, occasionally bursting into fully-fledged ecstasy. Utterly uplifting, and proof that less is usually more.

As you would expect from a pair of sound engineers, the mastering is excellent - on a good setup the atmosphere created ranges from the impressive to the astounding.

To summarise: a great album. Groundbreaking it isn't, but it's an excellent addition to the genre, and what Zero 7 do they do with impressive flair.

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