We reviewed Zero 7’s Yeah Ghost.
Within the first few weeks of this being released, I decided to check Zero 7’s new album out on their MySpace account and I can remember not liking the tracks I heard. Nearly a year and a half later and I’m wondering what I was listening to. Coming three years after The Garden, much was expected of the downtempo duo. The Garden was a creative step ahead of the previous two albums in terms of musical depth and vocals and garnered significantly more plaudits than When It Falls and probably the most since their debut album Simple Things. With this in mind, it went without saying that the group would continue this diverse trend for the new album and they didn’t disappoint.
The album opens with a short instrumental (if you can call it that) called Count Me Out. Something of a sound design type track which may seem superfluous to some but it really does set the tone for the rest of the album, much like an appetiser at a party. The first full track Mr McGee is probably the best of the bunch and maintains the same kind of vibe from The Garden: upbeat but smooth. Eska Mtungwazi’s vocals are a new breath of fresh air having heard the likes of Sia Furler, Tina Dico and Sophie Barker. A certain type of soul that gives the music a different kind of body. Swing is more of a folksy/dream pop track and unlike many indie pop songs of today, this one is quite likeable, providing it doesn’t find its way onto an Apple or a Match.com advert (and no, that’s not Sia singing, it’s Binki Shapiro, although the likeness is almost uncanny). Everything Up (Zizou) is different to most Zero 7 outings in that it could easily come straight off a debut rock album and be seen as a decent filler. Featuring vocals from Henry Binns and paying homage to Zinedine Zidane. It goes a bit D&B/dubstep towards the end, which is a nice unique touch. It might not be what you’d expect from them and yet you can still feel familiar with it; this must be what Freud meant by Das Unheimliche. Pop Art Blue is very much a more uptempo version of Home with vocals very similar to those sung by Sophie Barker. Medicine Man, like Mr McGee, has the same kind of speed and effect and therefore the same soulful Mtungwazi voice attached. Ghost Symbol is a electronica sampler’s dream, without sounding like a locate has prowled across a MIDI keyboard for four and a half minutes. There are elements of dustup in terms of sound and tempo, which may or may not have been an intended invitation for remixes (which has been duly taken up – check out Julio Bashmore’s remix, very good). Sleeper is a trip hop/Massive Attack-esque track without attempting to draw any scrutinising comparisons. No prizes for guessing whose vocals appear on this one (hint: she’s got soul). Solastalgia is what would happen if a song from Simple Things was a bottle of wine and left to mature for eight years. Or if you left a primate for a few million years and came back to find it had evolved a bit. Soft, slightly eerie and haunting. Perfect. The penultimate track, The Road, is a sombre piece which is very well placed towards the end as not to spoil the mood of the overall album. Mtungwazi offers her voice for the fourth time on the LP and does this song the justice is deserves. Something for the end of a CSI Miami episode for sure, much like the whole Zero 7 catalogue. The final track, much like the opening one, is something Amon Tobin would be proud of. All Of Us certainly a decent mix of music and interesting sound design sampling and a nice touch to end an enjoyable electronic album from the masters of downtempo.
To a few reviewers, this wasn’t a good album. To remain unbiased and retain my subjectivity, I didn’t read them. After hearing it for myself and taking away the fact that I’m a big Zero 7 fan, I don’t think I’ll be reading them anytime soon. The group have managed to expand continuously on what they have created for the past eight years to produce their most musically diverse album yet, delving into different genres for inspiration, something they hadn’t done in their first two outings. While Simple Things probably remains their magnum opus, it seems their other M.O. has been altered slightly without them faltering. If all musicians could do that, we’d have a better set of music charts and I’d be reviewing more albums. Alas, I’ll stick to what I know.