When it Falls (Palm Pictures)
by Tim Den
Describing Zero 7 as “digi-soul” is almost short-changing them. After all, they travel on warm jet streams miles away from the clammy hands of technology, yet groove on enough downtempo beats to miss the “organic” boat… so what are they? The best combination of chill-out and jazzy-blues vocals, that’s what. Think Dido cornered the market on this stuff? Think again. Zero 7 are by far the leaders of the pack (ahead of Alpha, Hooverphonic, Poe, and – dare I say it? – Portishead), a fact achieved by their unparalleled vocal and production work.
Whereas others struggle to project the dreamy, seductive, atmospheric, and “soul” aesthetics of the genre, Zero 7 simply sew together better songs accompanied by better surroundings. They don’t need to “project” anything, they inheritently are sexy and sophisticated, catchy, and textured. Their vocalists – three female and one male – simply have better voices than those of Massive Attack or Alpha. When verses peel off their layers to reveal the choruses, the flowing curves are as translucently gorgeous as they are naturally engaging. “Somersault” and (album highlight) “Home” stun you with their verses, than unbelievably turn into choruses that black you out with beauty. The actual vocal lines themselves are fantastic enough, but when you put ’em to the confident womanhood of the voices… good god almighty.
When it Falls already looks to be this year’s best mood-n-melody record. I wonder what Björk is up to?