Album: Zero 7

The Garden, ATLANTIC
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The Independent Culture

The Garden is such a vast improvement on 2004's dull-as-dishwater When It Falls that it's hard to believe they were made by the same group. In a way, that's very nearly the case, with José Gonzalez providing vocals on four tracks, one being "Crosses" from his own Veneer album, which gets a gentle dub/house makeover that doesn't puncture its delicate meniscus.

Gonzalez imbues the songs with a sense of magic and mystery sadly lacking in the duo's previous work, and which flows over here into those tracks fronted by Sia Furler or Zero 7's Henry Binns himself. The dreary "Your Place" and instrumental "Seeing Things", a methodical but rather aimless piece in 6/8 time, are the closest things here to the last album's drab anonymity; better by far are tracks like "Throw It All Away" and "The Pageant of the Bizarre", where Furler essays her best Katie Melua/Jolie Holland croon over a triple-time groove picked out on pump organ and melodica.

Best of all are the tracks on which Gonzalez's quizzical lilt conjures the character - most notably "Today", a bossa nova swathed in backing harmonies and caressed by horns: "Today/ The words don't mean enough for us to say/ Today/ To steal the moment that we gave away".

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Today', 'Crosses', 'Throw It All Away'