Necessity, so they say, is the mother of invention. Its a sentiment with which Zero 7, one of this decades musical sculptors par excellence, would doubtless concur.
Having spent the best part of a year touring their last album, When It Falls, which, along the way, saw them transformed into a vast, super slick, group-like behemoth, Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker felt the need to create a new reality for their third album of beatific tales, The Garden.
It wasnt that the When It Falls experience was a particularly negative one far from it, as Sam is at pains to point out, neither of us wants to cast a shadow over that record, but having done the extensive group thing, they both felt it was time to draw a line under that stage of their evolution and get back to basics.
What this meant in essence was returning to the days of just Henry and Sam in a studio, bodging things a bit, and those things sticking on the record rather than being replaced by somebody else (Sam).
This simpler, more relaxed and less pressured environment was also informed by Henrys move out of Londons sprawling metropolis. Having got twitchy in the capital, Henry upped sticks to the relative calm of Glastonbury the town, not the festival, he quickly states.
There he built a studio (It was good not to think about music for a while) and kept in contact with Sam back in London.
Hed call me every now and again, Sam recollects, and say, We havent got room for a vocal booth so well shut this door and therell be a curtain and whatever.
And then last spring, with the pair of them cleansed and refreshed, work began in earnest on their third album when the last nail was hammered into the wall.
Or was there no nails? asks Sam, mindful of the fact that it was chiefly Henrys DIY skills that pre-empted the venture.
No, there were plenty of nails, Henry deadpans.
Having mapped out rough ideas on the piano and guitar (I thought wed mess about and get some demos, explains Sam, but we just did it. Once you start, you start.), the music soon flowed.
Unlike on When It Falls where they could call on the services of everything and anything, only having a limited amount of material at their disposal seemed to fire Zero 7s imagination.
You get what you can out of it, they both agree. It was a mood which would begin to shape the records bountiful flavours.
And whereas the last record was perhaps a slight shift towards introspection lest we forget they were reacting to the inordinate success of their glorious, era-defining debut set, Simple Things planted firmly in The Garden was lots of vibrant light.
The result is an unqualified success: instantly recognisable, and yet, beguilingly fresh, The Garden is a freewheeling and evocative piece of music. Benefiting from a more focused approach theres only two collaborators, long-time cohort Sia, and future folk sensation Jose Gonzales it clearly serves notice of Zero 7s talent for eking out sunshine-soaked ambient soul.
From the gentle British folk tones of Left Behind to the mesmeric sonic tonic of This Fine Social Scene, there are thrills and spills aplenty at every turn. Your Place betrays a sly nod to the symphonic grandeur of David Axelrod and the jazz stylings of Roy Budd; the instrumental Seeing Things is all woozy, cinematic French electronica and the exotically titled The Pageant Of The Bizarre is nostalgic chamber pop.
These are headed off by the opening assault of Futures (featuring Gonzales) all shimmering acoustics and Throw It All Away (featuring Sia) exuberant bluesy psychedelia which set the mood perfectly.
It was just good being out of London, explains Sam. It was done during the summer; Sia and Jose would come and stay for a few days and there was no music biz bullshit. I was back on forth on the train every couple of days; it was expensive, although not as expensive as lunch in Notting Hill."
I loved it. It all sounds like a nice hippy set up, and it was really. Thered always be a few people showing up, having BBQs
two cats in the yard, laughs Henry.
The Garden is also notable in that it marks the vocal debut of one Henry Binns. And while he doesnt want the record to be defined by such a fact I dont want to be talking about that for the next year it does add another personality to the mix. Thats him duetting on Throw It All Away, This Fine Social Scene and Waiting To Die, while he sings solo on Your Place.
However, if theres one thing Henry and Sam dont want people to be confused by, its the albums title. Taken from the album artwork, which is a series of collages designed by a friend of theirs, entitled, spookily enough, The Garden, the duo are keen for the albums meaning not to get lost in translation.
The collage is made up of old bits of wallpaper and other stuff thats been left behind or thrown away, its an overgrown and kind of mysterious garden I think
maybe its about experience, Henry suggests. I think it makes something beautiful as well
nothing to do with gardening though
Beautiful; informed; an infectious mix of the synthetic and authentic. Welcome, then, to Zero 7s garden: we think youll like it there.