When State interviewed Zero 7’s Sam Hardaker a week or two back, it was immediately clear to us that Record is not an album the band particularly wanted to release. ‘The purpose of this interview is ostensibly to promote Record‘, Sam argued, emphasizing the word -ostensibly’, before telling us that the new -Best Of’ is more the product of being dropped by their label than any great love of the format. The only significant plus side to the album, according to Sam, is the remix series that comes with the two CD version. Sure, his comments were more an attack on the -best of’ format than his own music, but still, he needn’t have been so self-deprecating.
Sadly, State’s copy of the album doesn’t include the remixed tracks, but they’d clearly be the stand out reason to buy this record for any dedicated Zero 7 fan, as there’s little else that’s new. For the less familiar, though, this is an album that explores the highlights of the band’s career effectively, despite their own lack of affection for it. Chilled out and cleverly flowing from track to track, it holds together more like a purposefully constructed album than a collection. A good thing, too, as Zero 7 have always been more about atmospherics, emotion and feeling than the power of any individual track.
Their highlights, of course, are all here, and it’s immediately obvious just how important their long-time collaborator Sia Furler is to the band. Tracks like -Destiny’ and -Throw It All Away’ are made by her soulful voice, one they’ve found difficult to match even when the likes of Jose Gonzalez and Martha Tilson have offered their services. It’s a worry for the future: tracks like -Everything Up (Zizou)’ from their latest offering fall just a touch short of the duo at their peak.
Zero 7, though, come across as a band determined to push on regardless of hardships, aiming to reshape and rebrand their atmospherics to fit around their music to such an extent that Henry Binns has found himself on vocals on a few of their newer tracks, despite his obvious discomfort. They’re at a crossroads, and in Record they have a stunning, beautifully produced piece of low-key electronic, jazz and soul-influenced beauty that tells us exactly what they’re all about. Let’s just hope it’s a -story so far’ rather than a bookend to a massive underground career.