Listen to this track by London-based trip-hopping downtempo trio with a feel for the blues Morcheeba. It’s “Part Of The Process”, a 1998 single from their second album Big Calm. The album was a breakthrough hit, scoring platinum sales in the UK, and respectable ones abroad as well.
The sound of the band is taken from various sources, emanating from each member of the group; singer Skye Edwards’ soul background, guitarist Ross Godfrey’s interest in the blues and psychedelia, and producer and lyricist Paul Godfrey, Ross’ brother, bringing in electronic and hip hop texture to the whole.
This song is a solid example of a more pop-oriented mainstream direction, designed to set them apart from a scene they felt would eventually be stuck in the era. Of course, then they were labeled “post-trip hop” by the press. But, they were making interesting music, with some unexpected ingredients and contrasts that are indispensable to each other.
The sound the band devised was timely, since trip-hop was still a big part of the scene in urban music in mid-to-late ’90s Britain. But, in some ways, Morcheeba was in a position where they had to put some distance between themselves, and Sneaker Pimps, Portishead, and Massive Attack in order to find their own space.
One of the interesting dynamics found in their sound is between Skye Edwards’ calming and straight-forward delivery with Ross Godfrey’s liquid slide-guitar lines. On hearing this tune when I was shopping in the HMV on Oxford street in London around the time this song came out, that’s what immediately struck me about this tune. Overall it’s a country-blues tune wrapped in ’90s electronics, with a lead singer who doesn’t try to crowd it out with too much vocal posturing or theatrics.
Skye Edwards’ voice fell in with the general trip hop approach that helped to inform Morcheeba’s sound, meaning that her voice is clear, concise, and without all the fancy stuff. It was meant to be a part of the whole, not really to stand out. Yet instead of being just another generic texture, there’s just something in the quality of her voice that makes it completely indispensable to what is happening around it. This dynamic is what ended up setting them apart, to my ears.
The importance of this would come to bear later on, when the band split in the early 2000s, breaking down the middle between Edwards and the Godfreys. In the interim, other vocalists were tried. But, by 2010, Edwards was back in her rightful place again, after a part of the band’s own process, perhaps, to discover their true voice with each ingredient in place.
You can catch up to Morcheeba.co.uk.
And for those of you within range of London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire in late autumn, Morcheeba are playing a show there on November 28, 2014. Learn about that show, and buy tickets for it here.