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Layers of sound from Zero 7

31 May 2006 / 0 Comments / in music and gigs

Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns are the driving force behind UK ‘chill out’ band Zero 7 who Moth and I went to see in Bristol’s Colston Hall last night. When we arrived, that part of Bristol was in the grip of a power cut and we were lucky to get a gig at all, but the power did return in time for the show, albeit slightly later.

I am disturbingly familiar with Zero 7′s albums having played them repeatedly: they are really good to paint to, especially ‘Simple Things’ their 2001 debut album. Their new album, ‘The Garden’ was released only last week. They make layers of laid-back sounds which build on synthy riffs which swoop and chill and take unexpected twists and turns down any route they fancy. They are trancey and often include long instrumental passages and an upbeat sound. As a song unfolds you can almost chart how it was written.

But I had no idea what to expect from Zero 7 live. How would they reproduce on stage that delicious lasagne of noise? The answer is synthesisers and geeky computer wizardry. On stage, up to three band members tweaked these electronic beasts, while a bass player, drummer, guitarist and singer/s provided the more traditional live element adding to the sound using glockenspiels, shakey things, pianos, gongs – anything.

Much of their work is instrumental but they are lead on vocals by a cheery, slightly mad Australian called Sia Furler. She has a lazy, drawly vocal style and deliberately slurs her words, while at the same time belting them out like a fog-horn (but in a good way). She never missed a note. She describes her singing as “nice, easy …songy and lush.” Gah! she’s good – but I really hope she doesn’t go down that shocking and terrible ‘RnB’ route that so many female vocalists do these days. When not at the microphone, either singing lead or harmonies, she bounced around the stage like little girl on acid. Indeed perhaps she was.

They took three or four songs to really get into it and find the groove. Later they were joined on stage by guest musician, guitarist and singer Jose Fernando. He was really good: competant and integrated but despite all the hype he’s had recently, we didn’t think he was a patch on the likes of our faves Willy Porter and Nick Harper who play astonishingly flashy guitar and write and sing witty, poignant songs with aching soulfulness.

Zero 7 rightly played lots of songs from their new album but delighted the crowd with older songs, too. Always contrasty, colourful and chilled I hope Zero 7 continue producing music for me to make contrasty, colourful and chilled paintings to!

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