Trip Hop icons Morcheeba at the Montreal Jazz Festival
I vividly remember when trip hop icons Morcheeba burst onto the scene in 1996 with their singles “Trigger Hippie” and “Tape Loop“. They had something special that their contemporaries Tricky, Portishead and Massive Attack lacked. While all these bands make slow, sexy music with a hip hop beat and a DJ scratching over top, the latter all have a tense element of bad vibes in their music. They have a sense of unhappiness, anxiety and claustrophobia that led to them being called “Illbient music”. Case in point, Tricky named his second album “Pre-Millenium Tension“.
Morcheeba do not fit that mold. Due to the sweet and sensual voice of Skye Edwards, they transcended the illbient vibes of the genre and made you feel warm and fuzzy. Her voice is smooth like syrup and envelops you in a soothing cocoon of sensuality.
As a result, their debut album “Who Can You Trust” became the quintessential album for getting it on, setting a seductive mood in smoky candlelit bedrooms all across the planet. You put that record on and instantly the Bleu Nuit vibes kicked in. Seriously. Raise your hand if you NEVER had sex in the late 1990’s while listening to Morcheeba. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
The second element of their signature sound was the bluesy guitar stylings of Ross Godfrey. A skilled multi instrumentalist, Godfrey’s contributions to the band became even more evident on their second album “Big Calm“. This release had a “Country & Bluegrass Meets Trip Hop” vibe. He played all the guitars, sitar, pedal steel, lap steel, Hohner clavinet, Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer piano, drums, EMS synthesizer and MKS 80.
I saw them perform in Montreal for the Big Calm tour in 1998. It was unreal. The band was tight and the DJ scratches of the third founding member Paul Godfrey were on point. But the icing on the cake was the jazzy vocal stylings of Skye Edwards, which are like a blend of Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. She is a full on diva but without the shitty attitude.
Hearing her live is almost a religious experience. Her soothing voice washes your cares far, far away. To put it in perspective, in a live context Portishead’s Beth Gibbons gives you chills down your spine whereas Skye Edwards gives you warm fuzzies in your soul. To put it another way, Skye’s voice is more similar to Hope Sandoval than to Sinead O’Connor.
Morcheeba went on to great success and released many more albums. They went through some acrimonious times, broke up and then got back together. I saw them when they performed a few years ago at Club Soda and they were just as amazing as back in the day. This concert is not to be missed!
See Morcheeba perform for the Montreal International Jazz Festival Tuesday, July 2nd at the MTelus @ 8:30 pm. The opening act is Léonie Gray.
Check out more the U.S Girls at the free concert in Verdun, corner Galt, and Wellington Street July 3rd.
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