Music

Zero 7: Record

Close to a decade into their career, Zero 7 have just dispensed a retrospective/best-of album entitled Record. Aside from their avid fans, Zero 7 will not be able to persuade anyone to purchase this collection if they already have their first album.


Zero 7

Record

Label Website: www.atlanticrecords.com/
Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2010-07-20
UK Release Date: 2010-06-28
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Zero 7 have never been a band known for smash hits and major singles. Their albums tend to be cohesive, downtempo electronic affairs. Primary composers, Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker achieved commercial and critical success with their 2001 debut, the Mercury Music Prize-nominated Simple Things. Yet, as time has passed, from that release till last year’s, Yeah Ghost, Zero 7 have seen a waning of both personal (e.g. mine) and critical opinion. Despite working with a diverse pool of collaborators and guest vocalists (including Sia Furler, Tina Dico and Jose Gonzalez) across a total of four full length albums, Zero 7’s greatest hits leans heavily on their first, capturing their broad essence yet failing to convince anyone that this is a must own. It might instead serve as a primer for Simple Things, a charming atmospheric album many picked up after hearing “In the Waiting Line” as an official Zach Braff selection on the Garden State soundtrack.

The disc is not arranged chronologically, but, whatever the organization, the chosen songs diligently represent Zero 7’s atmosphere and it leans towards more vocal-centered tracks that define their later albums. The folksy sound of “Futures” and “I Have Seen” open the compilation, with the male vocalists (Gonzalez and Mozez) warm tones inviting the listener in. They are followed by the perfect refined production, “You’re My Flame”, more upbeat but enhancing Furler’s sweet, honest illustrations, of the innocent pleasures of her affection, and setting them forward. It’s still well within the Zero 7 atmosphere and suits the background music of a picnic or a Sunday brunch.

Next comes “Destiny”, which along with “In the Waiting Line” later, are the strongest, most outstanding examples of the band’s warm ambiance and likely their most recognizable. The “Destiny” music video earned a lot of airplay for its rotoscoping visual technique. These two are included with five other songs from Simple Things (which is half of that entire album). Excluded are a couple of Simple Things’ great instrumentals, “Give it Away” and “Likufanele”, though perhaps this was a conscious decision preferable to neglecting any guest vocalist from their greatest hits album. Or simply rational since three other instrumentals from the same album (“Polaris”, “Salt Water Sound” and “End Theme”) are already included.

Another upbeat song, “Mr. McGee”, is perhaps the most questionable inclusion or the most unfortunate placement right in the middle between the downtempo track “Home” and the light, melodic “Swing” with its steel drum rings. Eska Mtungwazi’s processed vocals grate on the listener; the song is highly acerbic not at all attuned to the environment. Relaxed bodies on an evening after a barbeque might perk up when this intrusion breaks the chilled mood. But afterwards, the rest of the compilation won’t brand a new listener with any significant impressions as it returns to Zero 7’s greatest strength, downtempo, cinematic and inviting compositions.

Record is being released as a deluxe version with a second (unmixed) disc of remixes as well as the standard single disc version, which this review covers. The deluxe version might please longtime fans hoping to collect many remixes on one disc. Or perhaps a bonus DVD, with the “Destiny” music video or live footage, or the inclusion of a few of Zero 7’s own remixes, like N.E.R.D.’s “The Provider”, could drawn more interest in owning this as a collector’s item. But as it stands, the single disc is passable for new listeners. Most people should pick up Zero 7’s full length Simple Things for a solid atmospheric album. If a few more uptempo songs won’t do you any harm, this compilation is not so bad for your backyard.

4

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image