Does the world really need a new Morcheeba album? Are the band still relevant, having emerged from something of an identity crisis four years back? Of course fans will affirm without hesitation that there is a place for them, but their last outing, while pushing their own boundaries with moves into more analogue territory, will have tried their patience.
Sadly for Daisy Martey, that marked her first and only album as Morcheeba’s principal vocalist, the casualty of a mismatch rather than a shortfall in performance, her voice a touch too piercing for the brothers’ Godfrey’s smooth production. So now the duo are back to basics on their own, with a small handful of unheralded guests in tow, ready to head out on the open road.
This long and sometimes dusty trip is signposted by flirtations with country music that cling to the edges of their vehicle. It suits their style, and crucially provides a stronger element of personality and identity in electronic music that, while well produced, borders on the sterile. The outdoorsy Run Honey Run is the best example of this sound, and the nagging refrain makes an instant impression. It’s a slight new direction, but not bold enough when applied elsewhere.
Judy Tzuke‘s vocal on the opening Enjoy The Ride has a grittiness we’re familiar with hearing from Beth Orton but the production feels too safe, comfortable and over polished. More convincing is instrumental The Ledge Beyond The Edge, a touch of sitar reverberating around a strong, bassy groove.
Yet this gem, all too near the finish, highlights this record’s problem – it doesn’t have enough of an edge to make the listener yearn for a return, the feeling remaining that everything can be discovered on the first listen. And that’s not always a good thing on tracks such as One Love Karma, where Cool Calm Pete‘s ludicrous lyric “back at your bungalow, don’t be so humble yo” sticks like an uncomfortable itch, and once discovered, fails to go away.
There’s little doubt Ross and Paul Godfrey will now take comfort in their control of the operation once again, the departure of Martey returning total artistic freedom. Yet it also feels like they’ve become a little too cosy in their favourite slippers, so that while Dive Deep is a pleasant album, it swims in familiar and safe waters.