Album: Zero 7, Yeah Ghost (Atlantic)

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The Independent Culture

While most of their peers in the downtempo chill-out genre have steadily declined through their careers, Zero 7 have somehow managed to buck the trend.

2006's The Garden was a vast improvement on the woeful When It Falls, and Yeah Ghost finds them vaulting to an even higher plane, thanks to their blending of soulful vocals (especially those of Eska Mtungwazi) with a more exploratory musical outlook, notably reflecting the influence of krautrock. Following the brief looped whirlpool of "Count Me Out", "Mr McGee" shifts gears imperceptibly from typical ambient chill-out tones to a more pulsing groove behind Mtungwazi's emotive singing, the whole thing topped off with the apoplectic spluttering of a randomised guitar solo. Alongside lyrical references to Zidane and Murakami, "Everything Up (Zizou)" has an understated industry reminiscent of Fujiya & Miyagi, while the sleek, gentle pulsing of "Ghost sYMBOL" recalls Future Days-era Can. Mtungwazi may be the main vocal star on several tracks, but also worthy of mention are Martha Tilston, whose breathy tones light up "Pop Art Blue", and the mysterious Jackie Daniels, whose wry, jazzy delivery on the lilting waltz shuffle "Swing" sounds a lot like Jolie Holland to these ears. A varied, engaging affair, Yeah Ghost may be the relaxed club album of the year.

Download this Mr McGee, Swing, Everything Up (Zizou), Ghost sYMbOL