With their fourth release British electronic duo Zero 7 appear keen to show they have more ammunition at their disposal than their output to date has suggested. In a statement unveiling the release of Yeah Ghost, Zero 7 stated that the upcoming LP would see the tempo of their songs “ratcheted right up”, despite the acclaim their downtempo stylings reaped for them. Showing how much they’ve grown from the days of Simple Things, the new album is indeed a move into more upbeat territory than the chillout soundtracks we associate with this act. The results are, unfortunatley, rather inconsistent.
The heralded progression aside, Zero 7 stick to tradition by featuring multiple vocalists including newcomer Eska Mtungwazi and Henry Binns himself (-Everything Up’), allowing them come to the fore. The accolade for finest vocals goes to folk singer Martha Tilston for her breathy addition to -Pop Art Blue’, a track which occasionally reveals snapshots of beauty absent in the rest of the album. Yeah Ghost wears poppier influences on its sleeve throughout the eleven tracks here, with songs like -Sleepr’ and -Mr McGee’ almost hitting Basement Jaxx territory but not always with the most convincing outcomes. While they have undoubtedly pushed out their musical boundaries, the chillout factor which made Zero 7’s name is thankfully not entirely lost. Tracks like -The Road’ cover similar, well-trodden ambient ground but admittedly the album borders on being unimaginative and often bland in places.
The pair still manage to create interesting and quietly inspiring soundscapes with opener -Count Me Out’ and -Ghost sYMBOL’ in particular drawing on their strengths. -Swing’ also stands out for its upbeat and lilting melody, showing that Zero 7 are indeed capable of upping their game on the odd occasion. Finishing off on a high point with the rather haunting and rhythmic -All of Us’, the disparate elements of Yeah Ghost don’t always hit the mark, leading to a jarred, inconsistent and wholly disjointed result. The all too infrequent strong points of this album could be the ideal hangover music but sadly the entire effort just doesn’t hit the spot.
By aiming to move into more uptempo dance territory, this album is evidently perkier and more upbeat than its predecessors, a welcome change for a band who were increasingly pigeon-holed. While you could pick a far worse soundtrack to chill out to than this, Yeah Ghost is not the visionary epic fans will have been holding out for and is far from being the progressive leap one suspects Zero 7 would like it to be either.