From the opening bars of Undercurrent, a track layered with dubby bass kicks, lugubrious stabs, ethereal voice effects and exotic melodies, memories of one of the greatest debut albums of recent times come flooding back. Featuring as the last track on The Facts and the Dreams, an album which was once iTunes album of the year, Undercurrent now has a new home introducing The Best Of Fragile State. As introductions go its ideal, a real mood setter. As 'Best of' compilations go, this has to be as good as it gets. Folks, its time to kick back and relax.
For the next hour you will be treated to some of the finest downtempo, chilled out, electronica infused beats, ever to find their way into your ears. Overlaid throughout with juxtaposition jazzy keys, and subtle harmonic melodies, Fragile State have compiled a retrospective, which reminds us why they have always been worthy of high acclaim.
In total 13 outstandingly beautiful tracks feature and each one deservingly so. Its almost impossible to be selective with the highlights, when each track is a highlight in its own right.
Standing out just that little bit more though are tracks like Hoop Dreams, a modern day classic which sounds just as fresh today as when it was released (as the B side to the single version of The Facts & the Dreams) a decade ago. The track is unmistakably Fragile State with signature soulful basslines and bluesy melodies. It is a very classy number.
Four-Four-Four is the best track from Voices from the Dustbowl, Fragile State's second long player. It is arguably Fragile State's finest. Composed of intricate afro-percussions; an almost hypnotic vocal; the odd crash of thunder; damn funky bass; horns, woodwind and theremins; a smattering of electronic blippiness; an array of guitar action; spoken word and a sprinkling of jazz; it is quite simply exquisite. Lovely stuff.
And then there is Panacea! You get the feeling that this track was simply moulded and caressed into being. There's a sumptuously organic feel to it that somehow makes you aware of your own feelings in a way no other track on this magnificent compilation does. Possibly the most chilled of all the melodies on the album, but with a relentless repetition in the drum patterns and extra drive in the bass, it massages the you into submission soothing the mind, the body and the soul. Enjoy the moment.
Whether you are a fan of Fragile State or not, you have probably already heard The Facts and the Dreams. Of course you may not have realised it at the time. There is actually little that can be said about this this production that hasn't been already. When released it was an instant classic, which at the time was everywhere (albeit oft surreptitiously), that chilled was cooler than cool. There are few tracks that can hold their own over the course of a decade and in an ever changing environment. This is one of them. When you hear it again now, fan or first timer, you will realise that The Facts and the Dreams IS Fragile State. A true masterpiece.
The track Paper Tiger is a slow builder preparing to pounce! It stalks you as you are slowly but surely lured into a head nodding, foot tapping sense of security, before waiting for exactly the right moment to attack. If ever there was a downtempo tune that purrs, then growls, then bites (admittedly not too viciously) then this is it.
If you're a long time fan of Fragile State, this release will no doubt be an essential purchase to complete your collection. If you're new to the band, it couldn't be a better introduction. Many would say that this Best Of compilation has been way too long in coming. They would be of course be right. The wait though has undoubtedly been worth it. Highly recommended.
I remember exactly what i was doing the first time I heard the track four-four-four and I literally dropped everything! The music was unusually relaxing, but at the same time challenging to the ear. I then bought this album some years later, and I have to say, all the superlatives about it being beautiful music are correct, especially if you like zero7. You can play it over and over and not get bored, so buy it. Perfect for the motorway - you'll get there very quickly!
I hadn't heard of Fragile State before buying this, but I've always liked Zero 7 and similar artists, and have recently heard a couple of Ben Mynott's mixes so this seemed a good bet. I wasn't disappointed - this is a fabulous album. Very relaxing, very cool, and very easy to listen to. It's one of those albums I find I can listen to over and over without getting bored, and it makes good background music while doing other things.
Every note is a triumph. From start to finish this album is a blissful journey. I can't count the number of times I have put it on and suddenly all is right with the world. Probably a thousand listens down the line I only treasure it even more.