Following 2001’s hugely successful Simple Things, we all know what a Zero 7 album sounds like. Now Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker seem intent on changing this, but is an emphasis on acoustic performances and the appearance of new collaborators enough to stop When It Falls becoming a mere continuation of efforts of old?
Play the album from the start and you may suspect that you’ve accidentally popped Simple Things into your stereo. Fortunately this unnerving sensation lasts little over a minute, at which point guest vocalist Mozez reveals his sultry, lazy delivery. It’s all very familiar, but the male singer adds something that was missing beforehand. Of course, the track consists of gentle, feathery drumming, acoustic guitar, flute and organ, and as such could be mistaken for that dearly-beloved opiate Moon Safari.
A number of female vocalists appear throughout, and they all sounds fairly similar – dreamy, understated tones and subtle harmonies. Home is nothing spectacular and yet thoroughly relaxing, and the same thing applies, to be fair, to all the tracks. The Zero 7 sound is still very much lazy summer evenings on the beach, although solid little gems like Somersault (featuring the Zero 7 collaborator you all recognise – Sia Furler) are sure to soundtrack less glamorous moments in people’s lives.
Admirably, there appears to be something setting each song out, in spite of the album’s engrained and undeniable style as a whole. Passing By boasts funk guitar on a very suggestive level, like Jamiroquai on a comedown.
In fact, a variety of influences can be heard, which is more than can be said for Simple Things – Morning Song is pure Air (an inevitable, but unavoidable, comparison), Speed Dial No. 2, funnily enough, brings to mind Tenacious D‘s Wonder Boy (that one might just be me), and In Time bears an uncanny resemblance to Sea Change-era Beck (perhaps due to sharing the same producer in Nigel Godrich). Unlike many easy-listening offerings, only one instrumental is on show here – that being the balmy title track.
When It Falls, then, is not a bolt from the leftfield, and neither does it borrow too heavily from its older sibling. Binns and Hardaker have generated a lethargic but totally endearing set of songs. It’s easy to listen to passively (i.e. ignore), but attention to it bears its own rewards. It does exactly what it says on the tin, and is sure to rule the roost in terms of soundtracking home-furnishing TV adverts.