Ultimate Dilemma - 2004 - 59 minutes

Living with the tag 'the British Air' wasn't too much of a burden for Zero 7's Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns: the 800,000 people who bought their debut 'Simple Things' didn't seem to mind and nor did the judges of The Mercury and Shortlist Music Prizes, both of which the album was nominated for. Just like Air, they've followed up an acclaimed first record with a perplexing second one. But whereas Air went way off course with the prog of '10,000 Hz Legend', Hardaker and Binns have just mined the same grooves all over again, far less successfully.

The cast from the first album are here again (vocalists Sia Furler, Mosez and Sophie Baker) and are joined by more musicians and a new singer (Tina Dico) on a set of songs that's so laidback it might force coffee shop staff to go around the tables checking the customers' pulses. Songs are dragged out (on 'Somersault' you wonder was the bass player on a meter) to such an extent that when 'Look Up', the eighth track, ups the pace - a little - the effect is similar to gabba blasting from the speakers.

'When It Falls' does have moments - opener 'Warm Sound' promises much and 'In Time' is worthy of Fleetwood Mac at their best - but most of the album is just a downtempo blur that briefly comes into focus. It will feature as the soundtrack on many TV programmes, but very few Best of the Year lists.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Warm Sound - Home - Somersault - Over Our Heads - Passing By - When It Falls - The Space Between - Look Up - In Time - Speed Dial No 2 - Morning Song