Sunday, February 10, 2008

Music Review - Trip-Hop

Morcheeba rose to fame alongside the likes of Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky in the mid-'90s genre rather nebulously coined as trip-hop. But while their peers used the possibilities of down-tempo as a step into darker climes, brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey seem more keen on exploring more blissful, soulful pastures.

With Skye Edwards - the smoky-voiced chanteuse who led the band through albums like 1998's Big Calm - pursuing a solo career and the Godfrey brothers' collaboration with Noonday Underground vocalist Daisy Martey apparently short-lived, Morcheeba's sixth album throws the microphone out to a procession of guests. No big names or celebrity grandstanding here, mind. No, the guests on Dive Deep – the likes of folksy English singer-songwriter Judie Tzuke, rapper Cool Calm Pete, and French singer, Manda – appear chosen less for who they are than what they can bring, sweet and soulful voices that supply an emotional backbone to the Godfrey's languid, slo-mo funk grooves.

Dive Deep works best when it takes occasional risks: see Enjoy The Ride, a melancholy, slightly bluesy Tzuke-sung number accompanied by weaving guitar and haunting strings; or One Love Karma, a stoned hip-hop number built from opiated beats, droning Eastern strings, and vintage mellotron melodies. Manda, too, has a quietly elegant voice, as shown off on Au-Dela, a wispy French-language lament accompanied by deft, fingerpicked folk guitar. Elsewhere, though, Morcheeba feel like a rather lightweight proposition. Riverbed and Sleep It On find vocalist Thomas Dybdhal doing a sort of sanitised, X Factor take on Roy Orbisons balladic heartbreak, while the likes of Blue Chair, with its familiar lounge grooves and very '90s turntable scratching, feels too slick and tasteful to function as anything more substantial than background music.

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