First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2006, Volume 13, #6
Written by John Metzger
There’s something remarkably refreshing about the effortless manner in which Zero 7 rides upon the gentle currents that course through its third studio effort The Garden. Although the group — which consists of Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, a pair of veteran record producers from the U.K. — still envelopes its ambient pop within an array of R&B-derived textures, it fundamentally has altered its sonic palette by more fully embracing the breezy, ’60s-meets-’70s craftsmanship that long had been buried beneath the surface of its work. The opening Futures, which also is the first of four wildly successful collaborations with Swedish songwriter Jose Gonzalez to grace the project, essentially crosses Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. The subsequent Throw It All Away scatters Bacharach-ian horns around the flirtatious purr of returning vocalist Sia Furler. Elsewhere, Gonzalez’s Crosses is given a delightful, Philly soul makeover, and The Pageant of the Bizarre truly lives up to its name by seamlessly shifting, in the span of a mere four minutes, from something carnival-esque in tone to a slinky soul-pop groove before it ultimately finds common ground between The Beach Boys and gospel. In constructing a song cycle that so perfectly straddles the line between cinematic grandeur and warm intimacy, Zero 7 has escaped the fate that typically has befallen many like-minded outfits, meaning not only that The Garden is immediately intoxicating, but also that its beautiful magic repeatedly beckons the listener back for another round. ˝
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box