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I have recently been having a big clear out in my flat and rediscovered this great album. Big Calm was released in 1998 (has it really been that long?) and was very much part of the Bristol Trip Hop sound of the late 90's. Like Portishead is is a album filled with melodic melodies and sultry vocals over a lazy beat. Big Calm is an album that does what is says on the tin one listen and you will be completely chilled out. The trip hop beats and beautifully hypnotic vocals of Skye serve as a gentle wave washing away the troubles of the day. When I listen to this album I am immediately transported to a beach in a far away clime, I can almost feel the warm breeze on my skin and taste the salty air, not least with the opening track "The Sea". My favourite tracks are The Sea as mentioned and the sultry sexy Bindfold which describes perfectly the agony of being in love. If you are feeling stressed and want to relax this album is perfect for listening to in the bath with the candles lit and loads of bubbles. It should be on prescription. Full list of track names: "The Sea" - 5:47 "Shoulder Holster" - 4:04 "Part of the Process" - 4:24 "Blindfold" - 4:37 "Let Me See" - 4:20 "Bullet Proof" - 4:11 "Over and Over" - 2:20 "Friction" - 4:13 "Diggin' a Watery Grave" - 1:34 "Fear and Love" - 5:04 "Big Calm" - 6:00 "The Music That We Hear" - 3:49
Morcheeba - Big Calm Morcheeba are an electronic and acoustic and vocal band, already this gives you an idea of their diverse influences, from trip hop to almost trance. This is their 2nd album of 6 so far, and consists of Skye Edwards (vocals), Paul Godfrey, scratching and drums, and his brother Ross Godfrey, guitars, synthesiser, organ and various bits of electronica. Additionally Pete Norris is credited with 'sound surgery'. Skye is definitely a jazz style singer and, according to the CD sleeve decided that the 'World needed some soothing', with her voice. ~~The songs~~ 1. The Sea At nearly 6 minutes long this is the 2nd longest track on the CD. The start is very, very nice, all synth guitars, quiet, then Skye's voice which does what is says on the tin, it soothes. She really has a silky voice and when the drums and synthesized guitar riffs fill the space between her vocals it is easy to see that we have music of very high levels of competency. It is catchy, reminds me a bit of The Verve. Has a mystical feel about it, good chill out music, good opener, 8/10. 2. Shoulder Holster Bit livelier though quite similar in 'structure' apart from the distinct sitar sounds in places, again, very chill out. Apparently (thanks Wikipedia) their name comes from 'Mor' = Middle and 'Cheeba' = Marijuana, and you just get the idea of a load of stoned dance heads chilling out listening to this. 7/10. 3. Part of the Process Nice use of blues guitar riffs here, her vocals are also more bluesy, I like this, it is quite different from the first two tracks, we even get a bit of blues fiddle too. Strong song for me, 7/10. 4. Blindfold Electronica start, use of strings and that funky guitar riff, nice, though I have to say it would be just as good a song without the vocals, in fact the guitar work is quite stunning in parts. 7/10. 5. Let Me See Quite a brash and lively start, definitely up tempo from the last few tracks, well at least that's what we believe until she starts singing and almost 'damps' down the song. Safe song, nothing more, nothing less. 5/10. 6. Bullet Proof Electronica start again with a real Middle East/Asian influence in the synthesizer use, then in come s the rhythmic drumming which turns the tune into a real World beat. The 'intro is 1 minute 25 long before we get some 'scratching' and distant vocals. This is the pattern for the whole song, very 'in a field' type of song. 6/10. 7. Over and Over Very ballad/folk influenced song, very sweet, very acoustic, and almost too sweet for me. First song that has lyrics that tells a story of sorts. Very, very accomplished musically but a bit too nice for me, love the strings. 7/10. 8. Friction Now we have a serious reggae influence, heavy bass guitar line, use of brass instruments (trumpet and trombone), and yet her vocals almost defy the genre and come in as very sultry and jazzy. This is really quite a special song in my opinion, best on the CD. I love the mix of influences; jazz, reggae, Latin, soul. Just to convince us we get a bit of dub/toasting at the time that we least expect it from someone called 'Spikey T'. Top stuff. 9/10. 9. Diggin' a Watery Grave Short song at 1.36, very 'Indian' think 'Govinda' and yet manages to 'turn into' a blues riff at points, very clever, instrumental, nice. 7/10. 10. Fear and Love This sounds very similar to Dido, though obviously isn't, but that, I guess tells you a lot about the song. Though I have to say, it is better than Dido, I love the strings (violin and cello) and we get trumpet again, very nice the trumpet is too.. Not quite a ballad, not quite angst, very good. 8/10. 11. Big Calm Instrumental first two minutes, all electronica then almost unexpected in comes some rap from DJ Swamp. If you have ever heard One Giant Leap this has that kinda vibe about it. Good stuff again. 7/10. ~~Final Thoughts~~ I had forgotten how good this album was. There are tracks, 1, 3, 8 and 10 going straight to iTunes playlists. I am also going to buy some more up to date Morcheeba now too. An 'honest album, no hidden tracks, no cheating 'skits', just 11 pretty solid bits of music. Well worth a punt in my opinion.
Ahhh the sound of Morcheeba. Laid back music doesn't get much better than this. According to the band, this album was conceived from the idea that modern life is so hectic and stressful, we all need some time out. This theme runs throughout the entire album and who better to provide the soulful vocals than the aptly named Skye. There are a whole host of sounds that make up this threesomes unique take on the music scene, including the short lived genre of trip-hop used heavily on their debut album, soul inspired lyrics contemplating love, life and death and plenty of wah effects from one talented guitarist. To set the tone of the album, 'THE SEA' comes first, a tale of literally leaving the big smoke and losing yourself in a calmer climate. A great starter even though it has been overexposed a little, being used for theme tune to reality show 'Shipwrecked'. A lazy Sunday morning track, gentle enough to not disturb a hangover, one of the most unbelievably mellow tunes I've ever heard. Semi-acoustic, whispery, I might as well be floating on air! 'I'd love to stay, the city calls me home. More hassles, fuss and lies unfold' Trip-hop makes its first appearance on 'SHOULDER HOLSTER' with more wah than you can shake a stick at (wah, the funky guitar effect is the term isn't it? If not, I feel stupid). Heavier beats on this one matched against the fashionable resurrection of the sitar. 'Out of the depth, every soul can pay a fee. Those who are kept, I'm gonna set you free'. Relating to the stress and fear in our lives, this song observes our paranoia and mistrust of others, yet the feel is still laid back and comes across as a positive track. One of the highlights. Hang on, I feel like I'm floating again. Not content with trip-hop, Morcheeba add blues guitars and folk friendly violins to this one and a few subtle sound effects and bass in the background. 39;PART OF THE PROCESS' makes me want to lie back in the sun and sing along. In England? If only. It conveys a message of longing for peace, although they express it better than I ever could; 'You smash they grab 'til it's gone, attempt to grow and fix undone. And I am the way it's all to scale, we're all companions on which we sail'. 'BLINDFOLD' is my personal favourite in its entire epic sounding proportions. The classic tale of love is blind I presume, with lines such as the chorus; 'I'm so glad to have you and it's getting worse. I'm so mad to love you and your evil curse'. Beautifully sung with a hint of jazz backed by a string section, the song crescendos into a perfect example of how so many different genres can blend perfectly. Sadly, this didn't rate highly in the singles chart, I guess you can't have everything. Indeed you can't have everything, when all was going well, 'LET ME SEE' lets the album down slightly and fails in its impact against the previous tracks. I can't help but think this would be better off as a b-side. 'Oh, let me see, all of the places that I can be. Oh, let me know, all of the places where we can go' doesn't leave much of an impression either. Similar in its reference to jazz as in the previous track, it's ok but lacks lustre. Do they sound any good if you take away the vocals? Damn right they do! Halfway through the album, 'BULLET PROOF' shows off the talent of the other members, especially on the production side. Frantic sample scratching on the decks pays a nod of respect to hip hop and that funky Hammond sound playing all the way through is too good for words. This is what trip hop was all about, the dub bass finishing it off nicely. What we need now is a change of pace. A ha! Here comes 'OVER AND OVER' an acoustic ballad, slightly melancholic. 'Running throu gh my life right now, I don't regret a thing. The things I do just make me laugh and make me wanna drink. I'd like to meet a mad man who makes it all seem sane, to work out all these troubles and what there is to gain'. Short and sweet this one, particularly thoughtful on the lyrical side of things. Oh by the way, they pull off reggae pretty well too, as if they hadn't impressed me enough so far! 'FRICTION' has a bit of a Jamaican rap with trumpets and all. 'Men in high places can't understand how to end trouble in this broken land. They have no idea and no feelings for love, just send in the dogs and they stand well above'. Still showing signs of disillusion with modern life then. You may know this, you may not, 'DIGGIN' A WATERY GRAVE'. I swear this instrumental should be promoted as a method of meditation. I seem to remember it being used on various TV adverts around the album release. It's simple yet leaves a huge impression, a beautiful steel guitar melody backed by a sitar harmony and that's it. That's all there needs to be. Without words, it manages to sum up the entire feel of the album and indeed the album title. Weighing in at just over a minute, shame it couldn't last longer! Warning: do not listen to 'FEAR AND LOVE' if you're feeling emotionally delicate. I'm listening to each track as I write about them in this opinion and if I'm not careful I'll start sobbing in a minute :o( It's a heartbreaking ballad and the strings in the first few bars just add to its emotional impact, not to mention the muted trumpet solo. 'We always have a choice or at least I think we do. We can always use our voice I thought this to be true. We can live in fear, extend our selves to love. We can fall below or lift our selves above. Fear can stop you loving, love can stop your fear. Fear can stop you loving but it's not always that c lear'. Simple lyrics but very effective in their reflective sentiment. Oops too late, a tear escaped so I'd better move on... 'BIG CALM'. The title track and what a way to end the album. They packed a lot in for this one; trip hop beats, hip hop rapping provided by 'Nosaj the Great' (whoever he may be), wah a plenty, a bit of dub and a few whispery 'oooohs' from Skye. An anthem sound, it does the album proud, building up into chaos then fading away to the end. Spellbinding. So to sum up, Morcheeba are: Skye Edwards (vocals) Paul Godfrey (drums, lyrics, scratching) Ross Godfrey (guitars, sitar, pianos, pedal steel, lap steel, etc.) How have they not managed to captivate the world with this one? Who knows, maybe they're happy to stand in the shadows. All I know is that Big Calm shot down like a bolt of lightening in 1998 and made me realise how diverse a band can be. I never realised so many styles could be blended so perfectly. Three years later and when I listen to it now, it still remains fresh, firmly placed in my favourite list. Give it a listen, you might get inspired.
Feeling tense? stressed? want to unwind? then get down to HMV (or wherever), pick up a copy of Big Calm and feel the worries just melt away. This album manages to achieve the perfect blend of mellow with pop in a way that nobody else has matched (even Morcheeba them selves - the first album is less poppy and the last album less mellow). I can honestly say I don't think there is a bad track on this album. I'm not very good at the music critic stuff - I just know what I like - and I like this. This album is a classic that I wil play again and again for years to come.
Album Review: Morcheeba ? Big Calm The Sea: The album opens calmly, reflecting the calmness of the sea that Skye sings of. What a beautiful musical analogy and it works brilliantly. The sweeping strings and gradual build up of the beat, sets up the picture of the changing sea perfectly and when the instrumental section of the middle of the track comes in, the power of the sea is exemplified perfectly. The lyrics are amusing and far from deep and the slow flow works beautifully. A top tune. 9/10 Shoulder Holster: Of the four singles (which incidentally are tracks 2-5 of the album) this is definitely the weakest. Driven by a frankly irritating bassline from beginning to end, there is something about this track that I just don?t like. The scratches between the verse and also annoying and though there is nothing actually wrong with the tune, I find it drags a little. The juxtaposition of the fast tempo and the slow vocals, just doesn?t wash with me. But the song still has a structure like any other pop song, so it is not a bad track. I?m confused now! 5/10 Part Of The Process: This is Morcheeba?s biggest hit single to date (reaching only No.38? :() and it is very original in style. Basically it is just a mid-slow tempo pop record but bizarrely set against a country-sounding track! The thing that makes this track for me is the sudden burst of energy every time the song reaches the hook ? one of their most catchy of hooks. The lyrics are actually quite deep, about the struggle to be able to be who we want to be. The fiddle ad libs at the end are great and the song continues the relaxed feeling of ?The Sea?. 9/10 Blindfold: Without a doubt one of the best songs I have ever heard. Haunting, moody, as the drums enter before Skye?s sad lyrics, you can feel the emotions in the singer and though cryptic, the words mean something. However, I?ve had disagreements about the meaning of the song ? I see it as a girl led astray, left her family for the man that she loves, being led further into a world that she shouldn?t. Musically, the song builds up, with more instruments added constantly, but never out of place. A terrific atmospheric song, which goes down as a classic in my book. Nuff said! 10/10 Let Me See: The mellowness of the first four tracks is slightly contrasted with in this track; a little heavier from its introduction and the contrast of Skye?s smooth, calmness, in her voice is great with different style. Another guest instrument makes an appearance, this time the flute! Less edgy lyrics than ?Blindfold? and ?Part Of The Process?, but an above average song ? even if the drums do become a little intrusive at moments, but that?s the fault of the production. 7/10 Bullet Proof: A welcome 4 minutes without Skye?s voice. This is no criticism? ok, it is! Her voice is very very monotonous. It is lovely, but her vocal range is narrow and in this track the production of the Godfrey brothers comes to the fore. The beat is similar to that of ?Let Me See? and the heavier edged Morcheeba is definitely welcome. Complete with scratching, moments of quiet, chatting and cool cyber-sounds, this track is proof of the incredible diversity of skills the Godfrey brothers have. Conveying the war-like atmosphere intended, perfectly, thjs track is very good, though let down a little by a lack of strong tune. 8/10 Over And Over: From the heaviness of ?Let Me See? and ?Bullet Proof?, to the desolate, perfectly calm and relaxed, short song, ?Over And Over?. The contrast of the songs is fantastic ? and on this track Skye?s voice sounds fresher than ever. Driven only by acoustic guitar, French horn, vocals and strings, the desolation of the song is perfect and the political message clear. Lovely, if a little repetitive. 8/10 Friction: By this point in the album, Morcheeba?s bravery must have been at a high, because this and ?Over And Over? both provide very powerful political messages. This track is an anthem against capitalism if you listen carefully, but is played against a pleasing reggae sounding backing track. Ooh I love Verse 2? ?Men in high places can?t understand; How to end trouble in this broken land; They have no idea and no feelings for love; They send in the dogs and they stand well above?? The weird Faithless-esque rapping in the middle only adds to the track ? and this is one of the standout tracks, if not quite as wonderful as ?Blindfold?. 9/10 Diggin? A Watery Grave: A short, instrumental interlude before the epic final two tracks. Nothing really happens here ? but it doesn?t matter. It adds to the album in an extraordinarily intelligent and subtle way ? it is an interlude that has a purpose. To prepare the listener for the ending of the album, which really is a climactic ending. Almost like the calm before the storm, another country-influenced sounding track. 8/10 http://discussion.dotmusic.com/bbs/Forum39/HTML/020007.html Fear And Love: If this album was a film, this would be the moment where the two leads reveal their feelings for one another and get married!! Not that the song is really about that, but it seems to be very ending-like! This is the final ?proper? song of the album and is calm, mellow and slowly builds up to a crescendo much like ?Blindfold?. Strings again carry the song, and the strings are the highlight of it as well with a much better tune than that of the vocal. Another guest instrument, this time the trumpet! But? if this is intended to be a masterpiece for the ending ? it doesn?t work with me. It takes too long in introducing the drums, it is marginally too slow and it actually seems to say very little (unlike ?Over And Over? and ?Friction?). Disappointing in a way when compared with the rest of the album. 7/10 Big Calm: Maybe the intent was for ?Fear And Love? to be part of the calm before the storm, like ?Diggin? A Watery Grave?, cos this is much stronger. Called ?Big Calm?, but buil ds up to a crescendo much more than a big calm, and is the standout track of those that don?t feature Skye?s vocals. Running to 6 minutes, it encompasses everything that is involved in the rest of the album ? the complete feeling of calmness, the relaxing beats and tunes. The rapping is haunting, unlike any rapping I?ve ever heard, (except possibly TLC?s ?Sumthin? Wicked This Way Comes?) and this is because of the backdrop it has. A great atmospheric track at worst, an exceptionally good experiment at best. 9/10 Song Score is 89/110, converts to 40/50 Structure/Flow The album has a definite thematic approach, which is obvious based on the photos of war-torn societies, in which people are homeless and alone. Morcheeba are trying to contrast the horror, with relaxation, and bring a bizarre, complex emotion to the listener. In my opinion, the album is very deep and flows perfectly, from song to song. The tracks are placed in a perfect order and related tracks are close together to show up their relationship. Cleverly made and produced. Good ideas that work perfectly. 19/20 Originality/Variety Plenty of both. The ideas are their own ? OK, there are other trip-hop artists out there making atmospheric, cool, chill-out music. But are they doing it as well as Morcheeba?! I think not! They are the masters of the chillout and this album proves it. That is not to say it is all the same. In fact, far from it. The diversity of the tracks is quite wide: from the country influences, to reggae, to normal pop and soul music, with heavy jazz influences as well. The range of instruments involved is incredible, though sometimes it seems the band are trying a little too hard to use as many different instruments as possible! Good scoring here though? 13/15 Talent Yes, the production is fantastic, thanks to the superb work of the Godfrey brothers and this is evident on the instrumental tracks particularly. Th e diversity only shows that up further. Morcheeba?s vocalist is Skye Edwards ? her voice is smooth, sweet and soulful? but it lacks any real depth and I?m sure she could do a lot better than what she does on this album. Not the best showing of talent ever ? but what the band have produced with the talent they do have is fantastic. 10/15 TOTAL SCORE FOR ALBUM: 82%
This is the second album from Morcheeba and definitely their best, it is an almost perfect aural fantasy, fusing jazz, pop, rock, dance, and classical music into one seamless collection. Although the first album was up beat trip hop it was still oppressive, but here we find them in a positively vibrant mood with jumpy drum beats, soothing string arrangements and Skye’s beautiful voice floating on top. The string arrangements have been turned up and brought to the fore, whereas on Who Can You trust they were used for creating a dark mood. Opener “The sea” is bouncy and upbeat, it has a great soothing string section, a jazz guitar that really adds to the feel of the song and creates an atmosphere that almost brings the seaside into your stereo, such is the mood conveyed here. The Godfrey brothers have really out done themselves here in terms of the music they have created for Skye Edwards to sing over. “Shoulder holster” has the most like WCYT feel to it, with its rumbling bass that blends into one, prominent big beat-ish drums and various sound effects that come together to create a collage of sound. The amazing thing about this album is that it is seamless, things don’t seem to clash here and everything blends into each other really well. “Part of the process” is yet another beautiful song that brings out the best in Skye’s voice, conveying a delicate emotion culminating in a great sing-a-long chorus, it has an almost country and western feel to it with its twangy guitar. “Blindfold” is the best song they’ve ever written and ever will. It builds up slowly, the bass, the drums, and the gentle acoustic guitar that again blend together. They even find room for a brass section here adding to the sense of emotion in the track, and finally the strings hit you, driving the chorus along with such a force it really makes the song. It has so many components it is a work of genius. Other great son gs on a record full of them include “Over and over”, an almost wholly acoustic song where yet again Skye’s voice works really well, and of course “Fear and love” which a bit like “Blindfold” builds and builds into something spectacular. A great second album.
Having featured high in many of the critics' polls in the alternative music press as contender for album of the year I decided to give 'Big Calm' a try despite knowing very little of Morcheeba. I still know very little about the band, but that doesn't matter as the album is a truly modern classic and deserves all the hype it received. It is the ultimate chillout album- perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon or a quiet evening in with someone special. The album starts strongly with the sublime mellow grooves of the single 'The Sea' and each track is a sure fire winner that just improves with every listen. 'Part of the Process', 'Friction' and 'Bullet Proof' are particular stand out tracks. My only complaint is the rather weak finish to the album with the frankly ridiculous 'Big Calm' which destroys the relaxing mood built up over the previous 10 tracks. Its a brave attempt to try something different, but Morcheeba don't have to do anything different and shouldn't have bothered on this occasion. Avoid. This, however, is a very minor gripe and shouldn't dissuade anyone from grabbing the nearest available copy of this magnificent album.
This was Morcheeba's second album and I bought it after hearing one or two singles from it. As the title suggests it's a mellow, chilled out kind of album. There's some very upbeat songs like 'Shoulder Holster' but Morcheeba's sound on this album is individual enough not to sound like chart pop. There's quite a blend of musical styles here; from the reggae of "Friction" to the elegant brooding "Blindfold" and folky "Part of the Process". I guess the album is best described as funky melodic trip hop. Lead singer Skye Edwards has a really beautiful soulful voice, so between this and the music it really is a great listen.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Shoulder Holster
3 Part Of The Process
5 Let Me See
6 Bullet Proof
7 Over And Over
9 Diggin' In A Watery Grave
10 Fear And Love
11 Big Calm