Back in the 80s, artists such as Everything But the Girl, Swing Out Sister and — to a lesser extent — Sade and Sting infused New Wave melodicism with jazz harmonies.
In essence, they took liberties with “America’s classical music” by filtering it through an underground, post-punk lens.
Twenty years later, Zero 7 does much of the same thing, except this time around, the template is club music of the ambient/trip-hop variety.
(Or whatever the label is this week. It’s difficult to keep track of these kinds of things in the dance music world.)
Don’t expect to hear four-on-the-floor beats or minimal, repetitive motifs.
Even though Zero 7’s Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns started out in the remixing business, Simple Things takes its textures, hooks and melodies seriously.
Sure, on such tracks as “Polaris”, “Out of Town” and “Give it Away”, there’s an economy of material, what could easily be construed as “repetitiveness” under unskilled hands.
But Hardeker and Binns give these tracks an almost orchestral sense of arrangement. They don’t merely cut and paste and hope for the best.
Electronica doesn’t pay much mind to traditional song structures, which pretty much separates Zero 7 from its peers. When Hardeker and Binns write a tune, it’s got verses and choruses, not just one-liners posing as lyrics.
Even without the cool roto-scoping animated video, “Destiny” is still an incredible song — a great arrangment, some wonderful timbres and a brilliant, smokey performance by Australian singer Sia.
Sophie Barker gives “In the Waiting Line” a sexy, breathy reading, while Mozez imbues “I Have Seen” and “This World” with a 70s soul feel.
Yes, Virginia — this album is some heavy make-out music.
In a way, Zero 7 does for electronica and jazz-pop what Craig Armstrong does for electronica and classical music — play on the strengths of both forms to produce a distinctive but enjoyable listening experience.
Simple Things is rooted in the club world but is not of the club world. At the same time, it ain’t Sade either, but it sure fits well with her.
Jazz and pop music make yet another beautiful love child.