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Morcheeba - Big Calm
(Sire/China)

Older, wiser, bigger, calmer? Well, sort of. The second album by this multiculti Brit trio certainly is Big, and while it is in certain ways Calmer than their 1996 debut Who Can You Trust, this isn’t Enya territory. Where the first Morcheeba album was enormously influenced by Portishead, this second release calls to mind many of the most creative studio musicians of the decade. In "Shoulder Holster" the band seems to have borrowed Cornershop’s sitar, Baby Bird’s chords, and The Dust Brothers’ busy, kitchen-sink mixing technique. "Let Me See" is great R&B/pop, with an almost inverted version of Beck’s "Where It’s At" riff. The album has atmospheric in moments, like on "The Sea," which opens the album with a mellow groove created by synths, strings, wah-wah guitar, and Skye’s smooth and strong—but never overpowering—voice. It would fit in well on a Neneh Cherry album. The record’s centerpiece is the gorgeously simple "Over And Over," a two-minute acoustic tune in which she pines for "a spaceman who’s got it goin’ on." As if this all weren’t enough, there are also tastes elsewhere of reggae ("Friction") and hip-hop (the title track), plus horns on several tracks.

But this is no world o’ music sampler à la Enigma or Deep Forest. While lyrics expressing stoic perseverance render a ballad like "Part Of The Process" a wee bit trite, Morcheeba maintains an impressive level of integrity through their many stylistic environments—all of which do make sense together in the way this group combines them. As a whole, the album does have a unified sound, within which a lot of musical terrain is covered. They seem so comfortable with it all, it’s no wonder they’re so calm.

YEAH YEAH YEAH, 1998