Album Review: Zero 7 – Simple Science EP

By on Thursday, 14th August 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

While it may not be true in other musical genres, or even frowned upon as if it indicates lack of talent, collaboration in the genre of electronic music quite often leads to incredible results. Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, who began their careers in music as studio engineers doing support work for the likes of Pet Shop Boys and Robert Plant in the ’90s, have been doing their own music under the name Zero 7 for over a decade and a half. While it’s been over 13 years since their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Simple Things’, the duo have returned with help from a bevy of musical colleagues, including Los Angeles singer/songwriter Tommy Leonard, to create the ‘Simple Science’ EP, released next week.

Electronic music done beautifully is perfectly demonstrated in the title track, which features the vocal talents of Danny Pratt and backing vocals from Leonard. The press sheet describes it well as having a “Frankie Knuckles-esque arpeggio synth motif”, which shimmers like a jewel in the single/EP version that nears 8 minutes in length. That’s another thing that people who don’t favour electronic music seem to have a problem with: to understand this genre, you have to come to terms with a kind of music that begs to be savoured, where every percussive element stands out like a star on its own, yet is an important player in the whole.

Numbers like ‘Simple Science’ that are drawn out to a duration far beyond radio single play are drawn out for a reason, to prolong the bliss. The refrain of “should be simple science, but / you know I love you too much / we’re splitting atoms that are meant to join” compares the emotion of love to a scientific endeavour, a chemical reaction that makes sense (or should) and is a no-brainer. Well, until you realise that the act of loving someone is “not for the faint of heart” and leads to second guessing choices (“kiss the night goodbye / I fall into you every time”).

Just missing the 7-minute mark, ‘Red Blue & Green’ is, except for a few snatches of heavenly voices, an instrumental. It’s the kind of tune that you would expect soundtracking an upbeat yet chill segment at your local planetarium, while the stars dance and play with each other above your head. “Cosmically aware” would be the hippy dippy way of describing it. ‘Take Me Away’ is ultra funky from the start with an ace bass line, but as the vocals of South East London’s Only Girl begin, the song’s tone morphs into something more ethereal. It’s actually more satisfying when the main vocal line cuts back out around the halfway point of the track, allowing the bass line to command your attention as it frolics unfettered with the synths.

The EP is rounded out with handclap punctuated ‘U Know’, explained by the duo as “we knocked up after a long hang out at Block 9 at Glastonbury last year”. No matter where they came up with it or how you slice it, the synth chords the duo lays down and beats a-thudding will keep your pulse running at a feverish pace. It’s been 5 years since Zero 7’s fourth studio album; if this EP’s radiance is indicative of their game right now, it’s high time they thought about conceiving and recording album #5.

8/10

Zero 7’s new EP ‘Simple Science’ will be available in digital download format next Monday (the 18th of August) on Make Records. Available now are 12″ vinyl singles of ‘Simple Science’ (backed by ‘Red Blue & Green’) and ‘Take Me Away’ (backed by ‘U Know’).

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