Simple Things

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 August, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 August, 2001, 12:00am

(Ultimate Dilemma Records)

Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, the London duo behind Zero 7, could make a strong case for being among the more unlucky music-makers in the business. With their debut album, Simple Things, they have produced a lush, broad panorama of chill-out tracks that show style, class and a little of that je ne sais quoi.

Unfortunately, France got there first. More specifically, Air and Kid Loco mapped out this territory so brilliantly with their albums Moon Safari and A Grand Love Story respectively that if you're not from their side of the English Channel you're unlikely to get a look in.

And yet this really is as good. The duo combine Moog synthesisers, funky bass lines, sexy vocals and kitsch space sounds to harmonious effect. The opener, I Have Seen, is a great example; imagine Frank Sinatra singing over an LTJ Bukem funked-out beat. Add a few well-placed horns and you're well on your way to a blissful good time.

Similar to Air, they are masters of the instrumental. Destiny and Give It Away are velvety tracks that sashay across your speakers; if Gitanes cigarettes had a sound, this would be it. The same goes for Out Of Town, which adds a little bit of grungy guitar for effect.

However, it's the vocal tracks that stand out, and Binns and Hardaker demonstrate a good ear for a classic melody or two with Polaris and Distractions. In The Waiting Line meanwhile is a brilliant funk workout, with liquid vocals from Sophie Barker.

Perhaps the most beautiful moment though is the final track, the appropriately named End Theme. Here violins battle with one another until they fall into line in a crescendo of moving, orchestrated jabs that could take their place in any film noir.