On Charango, acclaimed U.K. electronica trio Morcheeba mixes library music, orchestral film scores, hip-hop old and new, country, '70s rock, blues, exotica and tropicalia to create a thoroughly modern sound. The same trippy, funky elegance, romance and melancholy that made its first three albums so special remain, but Morcheeba's vision has grown to universe-conquering proportions. "We wanted this to be our weird, psychedelic, out-there album," says Paul Godfrey. "But we've got such a strong pop sensibility that we knew that you would be able to sing along to it (too)." Sing alone to Charango.
Since bursting onto the charts and into national consciousness with 1998's sophomore album, Big Calm
, Morcheeba have carved a niche as purveyors of evocative nuevo-lounge and dreamy ambience. While 2000's Fragments of Freedom
saw the South Londoners' first tentative step out of the "coffee table" pigeonhole, Charango
is the sound of them relaxing, infusing influences such as hip-hop, country, and cinematic scores into a joyous blend of humor, romance, and soothing melancholy. Vintage moments like the lush lethargy of "Slow Down" and the string-laden single "Otherwise" share space with interesting collaborations. Lambchop frontman Kurt Wagner lends his achingly emotive vocal to "What New York Couples Fight About," while Slick Rick's dulcet tones flow through "Women Lose Weight," a tongue-in-cheek tale of a husband driven to murder by his overweight wife. Adventurous and inspired yet dripping with Morcheeba's trademark languid rhythms and tranquil melodies, Charango
is at the very least a return to form and arguably their best work to date. --Christopher Barrett