When Morcheeba last toured Brazil, they stayed in a Sao Paolo hotel with a swimming pool bar called the Skye Bar on its roof. One day, singer Skye Edwards was swimming in the pool when the manager came up and told her, “You do realize this pool is named after you, Skye?”
This gives some measure of how far and how deeply Morcheeba’s influence has spread since they first sketched out the blueprint for trip-hop with their debut album Who Can You Trust? It’s a journey that has taken the brothers from their native Kent and Skye from East London to performing for tens of thousands of ecstatic fans in South America and China, along the way releasing seven successful albums of modern music that reflects the most positive aspects of contemporary culture.
With a career spanning over 18 years and with millions of album sold worldwide, Morcheeba now return with their eighth studio album. Head Up High is due for release on October 15th 2013 via [PIAS] America. This follow up to 2010’s Blood Like Lemonade sees the band enlist Chali 2na (Jurassic 5), James Petralli (White Denim), Rizzle Kicks, Ana Tijoux and Nature Boy, highlighting the magnitude of their career and influence on a wide variety of artists old and new.
The biggest changes in the band’s sound, though, are provided by the retrained post-dub step elements coming through in some songs such as the wobbly synth bass underpinning the urgent dancehall throb of “Make Believer”, and the jerky rhythm of the bittersweet “To The Grave”, a song about guilty secrets. In the elastic, buzzy synths of “Hypnotized”, which in typical Morcheeba manner, blends Paul’s turntable scratches and Ross’s bluesy guitar and harmonica into a piece that defies simple genre description – all the more so for the fiery Spanish rap by Ana Tijoux, whom Paul first encountered watching an episode of Breaking Bad.
“I thought she was incredible,” he recalls. “While she was recording her vocal for ‘Hypnotized’, she was heavily pregnant and we didn’t know if she was going to be able to do it; I think she went into labor about a day later.”
Ana Tijoux isn’t the only guest featured on Head Up High. Rappers Nature Boy, Jim Kelly and Jurassic 5’s Chali 2Na appear on the sinister “Release Me Now” and the infectious, loping strider “Face Of Danger” respectively, the latter song a celebration of shame-free liberation and self-determination.
But it’s not just rappers that guest on Head Up High: three tracks also feature the smoky vocals of White Denim guitarist James Petralli, who brings a soulful blues tone to “Call It Love” and blends beautifully with Skye’s voice on the brief “I’ll Fall Apart” and album closer “Finally Found You”. All three songs also feature Petralli’s lyrics, while Ross gets to display the full gamut of his guitar prowess, with a delicate break on the latter and an all-out, Hendrix-style blitz on “Call It Love”.
For the other tracks, Paul wrote lyrics using the cut-up method devised by William Burroughs and most famously employed by David Bowie. “I took phrases I admired from a load of my favorite books – writers like Philip K. Dick – put them in a bag and drew them out, putting relevant ones together, and the mood and feeling of a song would come together from that,” he explains. “It was just a nice, fresh way of approaching it. With the English language, it’s so difficult to reinvent the wheel, despite its flexibility.”
It’s an attitude typical of the band’s approach to their art overall: Morcheeba have never been a band ready to rest on their laurels. “I always need to feel we’re moving on and making progress,” says Paul. “When we make new records, all we want to do is blow our fans away, and hopefully make some new ones.” With Head Up High, Morcheeba more than fulfill those ambitions.
1. Gimme Your Love
2. Face Of Danger
3. Call It Love
4. Under The Ice
5. I’ll Fall Apart
6. Make Believer
7. Release Me Now
8. To Be
10. To The Grave
11. Do You Good
12. Finally Found You