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    Zero 7:

    When It Falls

    Wed, 08 Dec 2004 13:14:56

    Album Reviews: When It Falls by Zero 7

    Zero 7 released one of 2001's best albums with their dreamy, ethereal Simple Things, a pitch-perfect blend of golden era R&B and modern coffeeshop electronica. That album was a huge critical and commercial success (especially in their native England, where they were nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize), so it should come as no surprise that they stick to their winning formula on When it Falls, their long-awaited sophomore effort.

    When it Falls is a more focused, conservative record than the ambitious Simple Things, with none of that debut record's little twists and turns like the African chorus on "Likufanele" or the menacing bridge on "Polaris." Instead, Zero 7's chief producer/songwriters, Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, stick to their strengths -- jazzy, hypnotic grooves showcasing the vocal talents of the group's immensely talented trio of singers, Mozez, Sophie Barker and Sia Furler. Mozez is still the best of the three, a master of soulful restraint perfectly suited to tunes of quiet yearning like "Over Our Heads" and "Morning Song." But Barker and Furler have their moments, especially the sweetly sincere Barker, who really shines on the gorgeous "In Time," the closest thing Binns and Hardaker have crafted yet to a pure pop song. A fourth singer, Tina Dico, makes her Zero 7 debut here, but doesn't fair as well -- her voice is pleasant but too indistinctive for the group's understated vibe.

    It's that gift for understatement that remains Zero 7's Achilles heel. Even at its best, When it Falls, like the group's first album, is always just one lush Fender Rhodes chord away from easy listening anonymity. It's not for people who like their music "edgy." For the rest of us, it's the aural equivalent of throwing an old familiar cardigan and taking a lazy stroll through the park on a breezy autumn day. For this brand of downtempo electronica, Zero 7 remains the gold standard. - Andy Hermann

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