Review Summary: A great album to chill out to in the sunshine, but not much else.
Morcheeba has always been one of the more accessible bands to come out of the trip-hop haze. Classic artists such as Massive Attack and Tricky produce a smoky, shifty, shadowy soundscape that glides around freely and others such as DJ Shadow and Bjork create amorphous sounds but with surgical execution when it comes to aligning samples or sequencing. Morcheeba, however, combines pop elements, blues, and trip-hop into one accessible, calming mix of music. Their signature sound is simple and laid back, minimalistic and vocal-driven; one that is equally enjoyable played in the background as it is if you were actively engaged in the music.
With each subsequent release, Morcheeba floats further into the realms of pop without entirely detaching themselves of their trip-hop roots. Their ninth album “Blaze Away”
is still an incredible relaxing journey. Most of the songs on the album focus on Skye Edwards’ luxurious vocals that saunter atop fizzing, bubbly, or slippery electronics, as well as Ross Godfrey’s comfy melodies and bright riffs. “Never Undo” is a slow burner that opens the album with Skye’s placid vocals dripping over downtempo rhythms. Minimalistic yet expansive, “Sweet L.A.” and the funkier “Love Dub” follow similar patterns while the electronics and guitars on “Find Another Way” glide around as calmly as a quiet afternoon breeze that just manages to stir the tips of branches enough to gently rustle against one another on a lazy spring afternoon.
Following the departure of Ross Godfrey’s brother Paul in 2014, Morcheeba’s sound has been minimised even further which both accentuates Skye’s honeyed vocal performance and leaves ample space within the songs, allowing them to sound airy, free and calm. These tranquil background effects are layered which creates a spacey stoner vibe, as the album title would suggest, that oozes a chilled, leisurely atmosphere. Listening to this album has a palpable effect on your current movements and thoughts, you find yourself slowing down, problems appear inconsequential and things are generally more cheerful than before. Aided by Benjamin Biolay, “Paris Sur Mer” brings the album to a sensual peak due to the rich French-spoken vocals and subtly mixed keyboards.
Admittedly, “Blaze Away”
severely lacks variation. Perhaps this is due to the sheer relaxed character that it presents but the majority of these songs do sound the same. Tracks like “Set Your Sails” and the ironically titled interlude “Free of Debris” sounds like filler amongst the track listing. There are moments of variation within “Blaze Away”
, however, is so minimal that, listened to as a whole, they pass by unnoticed. “It’s Summertime” is placed between two songs that aren’t particularly darker but certainly cloudier and is an upbeat, cheerful and sprightly song that features an easily accessible poppy chorus. Songs such as this which are more upbeat stop “Blaze Away”
becoming too comfortable that it becomes stationary.
Overall, there isn’t a huge amount to say about “Blaze Away”
other than it’s an undemanding album that you can chill out easily to, especially when you feel like you need to wind down for 35 minutes and that the album’s sheer simplicity and catchy singing has a strong replay value. By taking a step back and toning their sound down even further than it already was, Morcheeba has announced a likeable return, created their best album in at least 10 years and recaptured that glowing, hazy quality that made Morcheeba so addictive 20 years ago.