At Contact Towers, we're aware that there have been Kings of England, Kings of Comedy and even Kings of Convenience. But if ever there was a title bestowed for Kings of Chillout, it would certainly have gone to Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, who, as Zero 7, took the laidback world by storm with their 2001 début album, 'Simple Things'.
A subtle blend of soul, funk and jazz, the pair of former studio tea boys had hit upon a formula which, combined with guest vocalists of the calibre of Sia Furler, made the album and its keynote moment 'Distractions' into the coffee table accessory du jour and resulted in a Mercury prize to boot. Blimey.
It's been mostly quiet, though, for the pair since their last original album, 2009's 'Yeah Ghost'; one that saw them in a much needed state of transition between their lounge roots and something more urgent and contemporary.
The journey continues with this EP, 'Simple Science', which, despite its slightly cut and paste aesthetic, has a more club-orientated feel and trails a fifth album to be released in the Autumn. The surrounding press hints at a more radical departure, but the title track is a whirl of dreamy house, vocalist Danny Pratt cutting through some of the glistery bits, but he's no heavyweight and we're not exactly talking Sam Smith bashing it out on 'Latch' here. On 'Take Me Away', however, they drop any pretence to DJ cred, going straight for the pop jugular c.2002; dubby vocal effects draped in echo, simple guitar flicks, the odd handclap motif.
Are old habits dying hard here? The evidence is ambiguous, but at least 'U Know' sounds great; big, brassy vamps and morphed words taking the 4/4 chassis and lending it a Balearic streak which will bring a glint to the eye of many a sun terrace regular. The final part of the jigsaw is 'Red, Green And Blue', probably as close to their former territory as Binns and Hardaker dare to navigate, full of percussion and melodies that ripple; it's a track that meanders through its near seven minutes, latterly turning into something for deep vees and almost cosmic.
It's a familiar story for those with the experience to get how not to leave their fanbase trailing in their re-creative wake, talking 'bout a revolution, but cannily only going for some evolution. You feel that over an album they'll need to push their boundaries more than here, but the duo's happy tinkering here is still enough to remain interesting - but only just.
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