“The garden is the poor man's apothecary. ~German Proverb”
Taking a stroll down a street or sidewalk nowadays, one cannot help but notice the eye catcher that is the jewel of the domicile. People who get a fleeting glimpse of this magnificent but so elementary aspect of the middle class these days will possibly think “Look at all those beautiful blues, magnificent yellows, and greens so full of energy! The garden is one of the most crucial, yet noticeable things these days about a house, with its fragrant burst of pizzazz and botanical galore. The garden is a true work of the imagination. While most people picture the garden as a home for plants and veggies, a garden can be many, many other things. Take music, for example. Music is a garden of rhythmical, melodical, and harmonical wonders, each being the centerpiece of every musical piece. With these vital aspects, certain styles of music are classified into genres and subgenres. Through the thick and heavy abundance of genres and subgenres in the world of music, electronica is one of the most bountiful subgenres Though it has only been around for about 10 years or so, it has had a fairly successful run of things, considering the band houses some big names, including Moby, Bjork, Air, Portishead, just to name a few. While it has slowed down in the past few years, a few new electronica bands have sprung up onto the scene.
Zero 7 is one of those newer ambient bands on the prowl as of late. Their music may not be the exact definition of “electronica music” per say, but the music they produce is relaxing, soothing, and peaceful. They’ve been around since 2001, the year they released their first album “Simple Things”. Since than, Zero 7 has released “When It Falls”, and “The Garden”. Zero 7’s most recent release, being “The Garden”, shows the development of the band since their previous effort of three years beforehand. With a mix of solid instrumentation and mind blowing vocals, “The Garden” is a true garden of electronica music.
Zero 7 credits-
Though Zero 7 sticks mostly to the electronica and ambient scene of things, they do branch out a bit. Every now and then they will throw a popish or an acoustic song your way. Left Behind, the shortest song on the album clocking in at a speedy one minute and fifteen seconds, almost replicates the sound and style of a Nick Drake song. An odd tuning is used on the guitar, making the guitar sound more folk-esque and enjoyable at the same time. Jose Gonzalez adds vocals that blend force with finesse, backing up the acoustic line to the fullest. Another world Zero 7 wonders into is the world of pop. The Pageant Of The Bizarre takes this idea and runs with it. The song is infused with a slick but tricky keyboard that resembles that of a later Beatles keyboard part. The main stay of Pageant Of The Bizarre is the keyboard, but it does get help from its friends. Though the bass does give way for the keyboard part, the bass keeps everybody on their feet, moving swiftly. The vocals finish things up, adding a heavenly touch to the song. Though a mostly electronica band, Zero 7 covers many bases when it comes to talk of genres.
Do not be fooled, though they may seem incognito on some songs, dilly-dallying with a popish sound, and experimenting with an acoustic song here and there, Zero 7 fits in a fair share of electronica. The first track off of “The Garden”, Future, takes a gander at mixing in an acoustic guitar and a bass with that typical trippy sounding keyboard part that is common on most electronica songs. Add in some interesting sounding effects, the usual order of impressive vocals, and a percussion part, you’ve got the majority of Future. Another song that exemplifies the element of electronica is You’re My Flame. A nice song to chill out to, You’re My Flame show cases a bass that keeps it real, another echoing keyboard part, and a drum machine. Each of these glue together perfectly to make a protective mesh for the smooth but delicate vocals, courtesy of Sia Furler. The song that is the real electronica song on “The Garden” is Seeing Things, the instrumental song of epic proportions. (well, not really). The keyboard sets the tone as well as the backdrop for Seeing Things as a happy and mostly upbeat song. Giving extra support to the keyboard is the soft percussion which lurks in the background, and an almost funk bass part. Of all the electronica songs on “The Garden”, Seeing Things is probably the magnum opus. When listening to the songs that focus more on the electronica style, you can easily tell that Binns and Hardaker are not aficionados when it comes to electronica/ambient music, but you can tell that they are passionate about their playing, which flows out into the recording studio. Though Zero 7 may not be your exact definition of an electronica band for the sound that comes out of their playing, they almost create their own style of electronica music.
The main aspect that holds Zero 7 together are the incredible vocals. The main vocalists on “The Garden” are Jose Gonzalez and Sia Furler. Each has their own approach to laying down the vocals, making “The Garden” a sort of more diverse album. Gonzalez has a more relaxing sound. Giving us proof of this are the tracks Future, Left Behind, Today, Your Place, and Crosses. His vocals on each of these songs are laid back, almost giving them a haunting tint. Gonzalez takes care of the more mellow selections, leaving the more restless vocals to Furler. Furler calls the shots on some of the more upbeat, up-tempo songs, such as Throw It All Away, The Pageant Of The Bizarre, You’re My Flame, and so on and so forth. She puts the most intensity and strength into Throw It All Away, really making it the dynamic song that it is. Though Binns and Hardaker are really the two that are Zero 7, they do not actually sing lead on any of the songs. However, Binns makes his vocal debut on “The Garden”, singing back up on certain songs. Gonzalez and Furler split the songs pretty evenly, though Furler may sing on a few more songs than Gonzalez does. If it wasn’t for the vocals, “The Garden” would be a dreadfully boring album.
Another strong point on “The Garden” is the instrumentation. Almost all the songs have that glazed, echoing keyboard part that is common in the majority of electronica songs. The keyboard part comes in many forms, form happy, to sad, to upbeat, to mysterious, really adding a nice texture to each song. Both the bass and the guitar fuse together to make a nice fleshy cover the other instruments as well as the fragile vocals. And last, but certainly not least, the percussion. Almost every percussion part on “The Garden” is extraordinary, paving the road for everybody else. On the songs that do have drums, they release a jazz-esque sound and style. The mix of quiet instrumentation with the usually varied but majestic vocals sets a nice backdrop for “The Garden”.
Though I am by no means an expert when it comes to the subgenre of electronica, Zero 7 represents the name electronica nicely, though they do not back it up to the fullest. “The Garden” shows how much the band has matured over time, as well as the skills they have learned over five years. The vocals are crisp and crystal clear, and the songs are beautiful. Though the instrumentation can be lackadaisical at points on the album, it’s pretty smooth for the most part. So, is this the place to start if you want to begin listening to electronica music? There may be better places to start, but this is a good place to start at. Zero 7’s “The Garden” is a true garden of music, filled with angel like vocals, interesting instrumentation, and awesome overall craftsmanship, truly making “The Garden” an apothecary for the poor human being.
We will never be a nuclear family, but a rainbow will begin at our feet. And if you take my hand, beware that this boat can run aground making the ocean floor weep. Catch a falling star you'll go far, in the pageant of the bizarre, and tonight I give you my heart.
Throw It All Away
You’re My Flame
Waiting To Die