In the mid-’90s, England was birthing moody, beat-heavy, chanteuse-fronted outfits with the same gusto Detroit brings to cloning its scuzzy Iggy impersonators. But whether they were creating soundtracks to imaginary spy films or the waiting area of methadone clinics, most of those acts were essentially one-and-done affairs. Morcheeba, however, managed to survive and modestly thrive because it wasn’t afraid to screw with the trip-hop prescription, even if that meant losing a few purists along the way.

Sure, aside from the die-hards who love it all, there are those fans who prefer the early, blunted-out atmosphere of the trio’s 1996 debut, Who Can You Trust?, and its slightly less hazy follow-up, Big Calm, to the brighter, smoother exotic-pop found on 2000’s Fragments of Freedom and last year’s Charango, and vice versa. But this eighteen-song collection — which draws from all four albums and offers two new tracks — allows both camps to see that the band’s songwriting has been consistently strong and satisfying across the entirety of its eight-year career.

Singer Skye Edwards has always gotten the lion’s share of the attention for her delicious, soulful croon — certainly the antithesis of the emotionally detached diva. The acclaim is well-deserved, but props to the brothers Godfrey, too, for providing the group’s mesmerizing musical foundation: guitarist Ross’ psychedelic rock grooves and bottleneck-slide blues, and DJ Paul’s tight beats, deftly woven samples and knack for eclectic arrangements. You can’t go wrong with a set that includes “Blindfold,” “Trigger Hippie,” “What New York Couples Fight About” and “The Sea.” And Morcheeba’s high-quality new tunes “What’s Your Name” (featuring rapper Big Daddy Kane) and “Can’t Stand It” point to more good times ahead.

Categories: Music