Zero 7

When It Falls (Quango/Palm Pictures)

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England's Zero 7 was praised/damned as Air Lite upon the release of its 2001 debut, Simple Things. The album served as a blissful post-clubbing ice pack, and tracks from it graced countless chill-out comps.

Zero 7's follow-up, When It Falls, finds the downtempo dons descending into invertebrate, "vanilla soul" songsmithery. You can imagine hearing this in any coffeehouse in America, as it seeps into the java aroma like countless diva-fronted electronic acts before it (the male vocalists here don't exactly challenge Al Green or Bill Withers, either). While there are moments of gorgeous suavity and David Axelrod-like grandeur ("Warm Sound," "Passing By," "Look Up"), most of When It Falls is so laid-back, it's snoring and drooling on your shoulder. The once-promising Zero 7 has become a conservative bore, content to re-create tasteful Xeroxes of soul ballads that wallow in sentimentality.

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