For UK trip-hop duo Zero 7, it seems as if the first and third time is a charm, as Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns are back with a rejuvenated sound on The Garden. And they’ve returned with a little, or should I say, a lot of help from Aussie chanteuse Sia Furler and Swedish buzz kid Jose Gonzales. Fans may be scratching their heads when seeing that The Garden is without vocal contributions from regular guest contributors such as Tina Dico, Mozez, and Sophie Baker; Gonzalez and Furler still manage to stay afloat on an album which is a bit more rosy, but still as chilled as one would expect.
On each track, Hardaker and Binns create an atmosphere that is indeed more accustomed to merge with the vibe of each individual vocalist. The numbers with Furler’s vocal contributions seem more ample, not only in terms of ambient music, but more so creatively than what she, herself, released earlier on this year with her full-length debut effort Colour the Small One. Gonzales, on the other hand, takes a more heady approach within the realms of more earthy and organic electronica with the slow ’70s AM pop sound reminiscent of, dare I say, Dan Fogelberg with his tabular voice on “Futures.” Furler also shines equally with “Throw It All Away,” which contains a bit more of a boogie stride to it than Zero 7 is known for. “The Pageant of the Bizarre” is some pleasing tango peppering merged with rudimentary bedroom electro.
There is, of course, something for adorers of Zero 7’s instrumental knack on the way stoned two-step of “Seeing Things” and wafting cool jazz on “Your Place.” The album’s title is spot-on, speaking in terms of “garden variety,” because the group has clearly stepped it up from their previous, lackluster release When it Falls which wasn’t quite up to snuff in exhibiting all that had to offer. But with The Garden comes redemption. Yet the group should have billed the album as “Zero 7 featuring Jose Gonzalez and Sia,” just to be a tad bit more clear.
Air – Moon Safari
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
FC Kahuna – Hayling