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  Offworld Music
Record label catering to innovative music, artists and producers - from drum&bass to hip hop and electronic.

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ZERO 7

The babymaker LP of the year. A creamy continuum of dreamadelic soul. 9 of 10" Spin

"Fans of Air, Dido, Portishead, Kruder & Dorfmeister, and Massive Attack take note; British duo Zero 7 has concocted the year's most tantalizing debut." Billboard

"The biggest underground soon-to-be-overground album since Moby's Play." MixMag

"More like jazz on acid than acid jazz…Simple Things is chill-out music with a little something for your mind as well." Rolling Stone

Zero 7 may be the coolest band in the world . . . .but don't call them "chill out." While they've been incessantly compared to bands like Air, and their self-consciously trendy, lounge-friendly ilk, such comparisons are just too simple. Indeed, Zero 7's debut Simple Things is an innovative, attention-demanding exploration of all things soulful - an exploration that transforms the familiar and cherished into something completely new. The album combines the technology of contemporary electronic music with the textures of classic soul, rare groove and funky jazz; in Zero 7's alternate musical dimension, you'll find lush Philly soul strings colliding with programmed hip-hop beats, or wrenching R&B vocals coalescing with synthetic ambient soundscapes.

This alchemical approach has caught on, turning Zero 7 into one of the most critically-acclaimed acts to appear in the last year. Simple Things has received rave reviews in Rolling Stone, SPIN, The New York Times, Gear, Urb, Alternative Press, Billboard, The Face, and was a constant fixture on numerous year-end top ten lists. The album received nominations for England's prestigious Technics Mercury Prize and Brit Awards, won the "Best Newcomer" award from respected dance-music-Bible Muzik, and has since gone 2 X UK Gold (200,000 sold). The band completed successful tours of the U.S. and Europe, where they proved they could take the atmosphere and energy of Simple Things into a whole new dimension with their live 11-piece set-up and blissful rotation of lead vocalists. The album's irresistible single "Destiny" was a top 30 hit in England, and is finding similar success with American radio programmers as well. It has gone #1 on the CMJ College Chart and was the #1 most added song at Triple A its first week at radio. Meanwhile, "Destiny's" dance remix from house/drum and bass icon Photek is also turning the song into a club phenomenon. Not bad for a couple of young, previously unheralded former studio assistants; then again, Zero 7's very first release was a much-beloved remix for Radiohead, so they've seemingly been blessed from the start.

But more on that later . . . The core of Zero 7 is Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, two thirty-old Londoners who've been friends since they met in the schoolyard. They originally came from different musical spheres, one hooked on R&B, jazz and classical, the other a nascent b-boy. "When we met on the mid 80's I was a soul boy," beams Henry, "while Sam was more into hip-hop." They soon began bonding, however, on music that wasn't directed at your typical fifteen year-old. They pored over ancient Ray Charles recordings to find the roots of its authentic soul, as well as the quirky tweaks of its analog production: how the reverb sounded so warm, how the vocals sounded raw, yet distinct, how the orchestration would create an eerily emotional Greek Chorus counterpoint to the song's lyrics. At the same time, they were living through England's acid-house epoch, where DJs found many kinds of music - from rave, acid jazz and rare groove to hip-hop and ambient -colliding in the technological advances of the digital era. At the tail end of the 80s, Binns and Hardaker opted to study sound engineering, with both serving studio apprenticeships together at Mickie Most's RAK studios. There, they rubbed shoulders with the likes of everyone from Robert Plant to the Pet Shop Boys. "I don't think either of us worked on anything we actually liked," Sam makes a face. "Speak for yourself," bounces Henry, "I had the Young Disciples!" What would really matter, though, was that the duo was becoming expert at mastering the studio ropes, as well as making the acquaintance of a fellow sound engineer student named Nigel Godrich, who would go on to produce masterpieces for Radiohead and Beck….

Off the clock, Hardaker and Binns had begun creating their own unique production sound, melding their love for the diverse likes of Roy Ayers, Isaac Hayes, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Marley Marl, and even more obscure vinyl discoveries, with their mastery of contemporary studio technology. It wasn't long before U.K. cognoscenti soon found Zero 7 to be their lucky number, however. Ol' college mate Nigel Godrich was busy producing Radiohead's "OK Computer" when he gave them the chance to remix Radiohead's "Climbing Up The Walls." The resulting dub deconstruction was quickly embraced by the U.K.'s pre-eminent tastemaker DJ, BBC Radio 1's Gilles Peterson. "I had no idea what we had done until I turned on the radio and Gilles Peterson was playing it!," Hardaker exclaims with a laugh. Peterson commissioned the pair to remix folk-jazz legend Terry Callier's "Love Theme From Spartacus" into a glorious symphonic soul sheen, and remixes followed for the likes of Lenny Kravitz and indie-rockers Lambchop, who found themselves with a U.K. hit after getting the Zero 7 treatment on their song "Up With People." Zero 7's first releases of their own tracks, two limited-edition EP's on small independent labels, sold out almost immediately.

They soon found themselves the hippest band around, with accolades galore from the likes of forward-leaning publications DJ and Jockey Slut. Still, despite such buildup and great expectations, nothing prepared us for the masterpiece that is Zero 7's debut, Simple Things. The album's many textures and grooves proved that, when it comes to influences, Binns and Hardaker dig in the crates like hip-hop turntablists for the most esoteric yet infectious sounds. "End Theme" shows Zero 7's jones for epic soundtracks; "Likufanele" incorporates African gospel for full hypnotic effect; and the title track attains the swirling grandeur of Massive Attack's best. It's their ingenious use of live instruments and musicians that prove Zero 7 are anything but a trendy downtempo act hiding behind their studio consoles creating "ironica" - there's frequently a bedrock of live bass, drums, and guitar alongside the swirl of Fender Rhodes, flutes, vibes, strings and sampled grooves that percolate through Simple Things' songs. But it's the vocalists that prove to be Zero 7's warm human heart.

Sophie Barker's breathily seductive singing brings ethereal elegance to tracks like "In The Waiting Line," while Aussie-via-London singer Sia brings the bluesy grit. With quaking vocals vibrating like a cross between Janis Joplin and Jill Scott, Sia adds vagabond abandon (check out "Distractions") as well a sexual friction (check "Destiny") - that melts any idea of chill-out the listener might have. Zero 7's male singer, Mozez, brings it all back home to the classic soul tradition while sounding utterly contemporary. On songs like the plaintive, soaring "This World," his otherworldly falsetto simultaneously evokes Curtis Mayfield's groove and Marvin Gaye at his most existentially tortured.

In the end, Simple Things is not so simple at all, but is instead a complex pleasure that can be categorized into but one particular class: midway through 2002, it's already one of the landmark albums of the year.

 

 

Be sure to get Zero7's new CD titled "Simple Things"

Be Sure to Watch Zero7 Live!!
http://sitelet.sputnik7.com/sitelet/zero7/

Watch the Video for "destiny" played on MTV and MTV2

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