For a quarter of a century, Morcheeba have produced gorgeous, seductive music that enveloped luxurious electronic sounds with nods to folk, rock, and hip-hop. Languid and sensual, their sound brought trip hop to mainstream audiences. Despite the departure of longtime band member, Paul Godfrey, Morcheeba have been able to continue unabated, with vocalist Skye Edwards and Ross Godfrey created a captivating record that works as a soothing salve for these troubled times. Even though the duo have been making music for a long time, Blackest Blue is fresh and stunning, the songs some of the most vital and innovative in the outfit’s 25 years.
The record opens up with “Cut My Heart Out”, a bluesy, funky tune with a fantastic electric guitar and some subtle studio trickery that wraps Edwards’ sinewy vocals. As she croons lazily over a slouching bass, the song exudes an effortless cool. Coolness is something that Morcheeba project with a classy genius, and it’s a brilliant way to open the album. The first cut moves seamlessly to “Sounds of Blue”, a sedate, understated number that recalls the band’s classic work (as well as Edwards’ solo projects) with a moody, relaxed vibe. And the sexy “Oh Oh Yeah” is a highlight, with Edwards cast as a sultry chanteuse, indulging in soulful, jazzy warbling over the alluring production with its looping guitar and its grooving bass.
Though Morcheeba have been celebrated as smooth and silky, there are some spirited moments on Blackest Blue that highlight the duo’s vitality and energy. “Namaste” is an angular arrangement that belies Edwards’ floating vocals. For sheer audacity, Morcheeba throw in a funky, rocking instrumental workout, “Sulphur Soul”, a swirling mass of sounds and textures: flutes, chugging guitars, an aggressive beat. Morcheeba also look to the dance floor with “The Edge of the World”, a strutting, mid-tempo disco-esque number that matches Edwards’ light, pretty coon with the gravelly warble of Dark Garwood, recalling the smeary, gutter disco of late 1970s-era Serge Gainsbourg. And when moving away from the hedonism of the love songs, “The Moon” will lead viewers to hear a James Bond theme as interpreted by Morcheeba. And responding to the last year of turmoil and strife, “Falling Skies” operates with a burning outrage.
But the highlight of the record is the most incongruous moment, “Say It’s Over”, a piano pop ballad that pairs Edwards with singer-songwriter Bob Barr. Though far from a power ballad, its lilting and mournful arrangement will remind listeners of top 40 love songs. Barr’s and Edwards’ voices blend beautifully, and they hit every arresting note. Though it eschews the thick, languorous nature of the bulk of Blackest Blue, it’s stately and elegant.
That Morcheeba can still produce fantastic, moving music so long into their tenure is a testament to the collective talent of Edwards, Godfrey, and their collaborators. Blackest Blue is sophisticated and elegant but gritty, like funky, bluesy Deco. And at the center of it is Edwards and her soulful, classy vocals, like a trip hop Lena Horne. It would have been great if there were more vigorous moments like closer “The Edge of the World” as the Hector Plimmer remix of “Oh Oh Yeah” is an awesome nod to club culture. However, the intimate, tantalizing tone of Blackest Blue is a glorious entry in a provocative discography.