Continuing the progress Morcheeba made on 2000's Fragments of Freedom, Charango is an album whose ambitious eclecticism is unified by their trademark down-tempo beats and balm-like manner. Painstakingly pieced together by the Godfrey brothers from a welter of diverse influences, the album aims to realise a modern, pan-cultural pop equivalent of the musically voracious Tropicalismo movement of the Sixties, in which country soul, hip-hop, Bacharach horns and Latino spice can share the same space comfortably, with no unpleasant grinding of gears between genres. Sometimes, they take on too much – as when the title-track's eponymous charango (a small guitar made from an armadillo shell) is shoved aside to accommodate a rap by Pacewon of the Outsidaz. Mostly, though, the experiments succeed better than expected, given their constitution. "Aqualung" blends hip-hop beats with classical instruments to produce a unique, funky-pretty combination; and elsewhere the arrangements of De Wolfe sound-library orchestrator Nick Ingman bring a sophisticated Sixties sweep of strings to several tracks, notably the silky soul eroticism of "Undress Me Now". Once again, carefully-chosen collaborators provide the highlights: Slick Rick's "Women Lose Weight" – sketching his attempts to kill his fat wife, and the repercussions – manages to be nonchalantly outrageous, hilarious and instructive at the same time, while Kurt Wagner's distinctive intimate whisper instantly defines the country-funk inquiry "What New York Couples Fight About", a duet that brings the best out of Skye Edwards, and may be the best thing Morcheeba have ever done. Recommended.
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