Big Calm is the second album by Morcheeba.
The album cover was inspired by that of the 1966 Ray Conniff compilation Hi Fi Companion. It was released at a time that “trip-hop” was considered on its way out. This album still contains trip-hop sounds and sensibilities, mixed in with a variety of other styles and genres, such as pop, lounge, reggae, jazz and electronica. Big Calm is the sea where so many musical styles swim together beautifully.
Singer Skye Edwards’ voice is ethereal and enchanting, weaving beauty into every sound.
The song, The Sea, was used as the theme tune for the UK reality TV show Shipwrecked. It was also used in a 1998 episode of the original Top Gear. The song Part of the Process was used in the fourth season Daria episode.
Originally from Hythe, Kent the Godfrey brothers (lyricist and DJ-producer Paul Godfrey and multi instrumentalist Ross Godfrey) moved to London when they were in their late teens. In 1995, the brothers were introduced to Skye Edwards after hearing her sing at a party. This led to the formation of Morcheeba. Together with engineer Pete Norris, the trio began producing tracks at their home studio.
1998’s Big Calm, moved slightly away from trip-hop towards a more pop-oriented, song-based sound. This was exemplified by the band’s remaking of Moog Island (a song from their previous album) in a more Summery, upbeat style, with the new title of The Music That We Hear.
One of the album’s singles, The Sea, became a radio favorite. Edwards considered the trip-hop label as ‘kind of dated. It’s more like a fashion thing. I never thought that we were in fashion, because when you’re in fashion, you can only ever go out’.
The album proved to be a big seller and ensured Morcheeba’s success as a breakthrough act.
What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?
First of all, the opening track, The Sea, has accompanied me on many trips to the ocean, many drives up and down PCH, the salt-water wind blowing into my car through the open window. It has been slipped into playlists and mixes, been a comfort when I felt like my heart was breaking, and as a soundtrack to stolen kisses shared on the sand. I have always felt like my soul was tied to the sea, so this song, from the first time I ever heard it, just got me (and I got it right back).
Part of the Process is one of those sing-a-long songs that I have vivid memories of, driving around with a friend in the passenger seat, a mix in the player (be it tape, and later CD), turned up loud, the two of us singing together. It is one of those songs that everyone sounds good singing. You know the kind, the universal melody type of song that everyone belts out together. I love moments of shared singing. It can feel more connecting than conversation sometimes. It is like lyrical kissing.
The whole album, though supposedly meant to be a departure from trip-hop, is in my collection of trip-hop music that I love. It is one of my go-to albums that I reach for when I need soothing, when my nerves are raw and ragged, and I need to breathe deeply and readjust my perspective. Big Calm is an appropriate title, because it gifts calm to me when I spin it. It is music to drive by, or walk down to, the ocean. Music to fall into an afternoon sleep to. And, it is music to fall in to someone arms to. It would definitely make it onto a list of top songs to have sex to, no doubt.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. The Sea
“I left my soul there,
down by the sea.
I lost control here,
You parallel parked the car on the side of the road, badly, and your face blushed pink when I teased you about it, offering to take over and show you how it’s done. You called my bluff, opening the door and stepping out, tossing the keys to me. I slid over, slipped the keys in the ignition, and took off down the road, seeing you in the rear view, laughing in the night air. When I made the corner and turned around to come back you were sitting on the curb, the wind blowing your hair back, a lopsided smile on your face. You were on your feet again when I stepped out of the car, and when I turned around you were there beside me, pulling me to you, kissing me hard on the lips. We walked down the water’s edge, the waves coming in closer with every ebb and flow, my hand in yours. You said you wished it was six months later, and that we were established enough for it to be okay for you to say things you were feeling too soon. I said, say them anyway. We left something of us there on the sand when we left, something I think neither of us ever got back.
2. Part of the Process
“All we want is some success,
but the chance is never around.”
The band played, the singer sang, and you stood there making faces, waving your arms, trying to get their attention. I watched from the sidelines, noticing the familiar desperation of being on the fringe of almost there, and you, well you were almost there. Your success would come soon after, and would grow exponentially in the years to come, but that night, back in those times before, you were just longing to get in. You looked my way, noticing me noticing you, and we shared that knowing together. Hours later we sat across from each other in a wannabe 50’s diner and you told me your dreams. You said I was beautiful, and I said “you too”, as I reached over to steal a french fry from your plate. I told you that I wished for it, too, for that kind of success, but the process was wearing me down. You said to never give up, even if chance took the last train out of town, and I didn’t believe you. I believe you now.
3. Shoulder Holster
“I want guilt,
I want to drag you right through your past.
I’m on a role,
and I’m moving way to fast.”
I bought a plane ticket and you paid for a room by the water, both of us knowing we were going nowhere fast. Maybe it was a rebound. Maybe that’s why the bounce hurt so bad when we fell. You promised nothing, and I took it to heart. I reached for my gun, but my holster was empty. Instead, all that was left was my dangling heart that we drug through the sand. It was a match to yours, neither of us the victim or villain, not a one of us got away without scars. Guilt hovered between us like the smoke from a lit cigarette, two on a match. I wonder what would have happened if you’d flown to me instead, or if we’d said “maybe its better if we never.”
“Friction is turning to fire.
Friction is burning much higher.”
Down in the parking garage, exhaust fumes did not set much of a scene, but you looked breathtaking in the flash of headlights driving by. I thought to myself if I just turn my head slightly maybe she will see it, feel it, and I won’t have to ask. My hands shook and my heart beat loud in my ears, desire thick in the spaces between us. “Should we go in?” she asked, and I thought to answer “yes”. Instead I turned more than slightly, my hand reaching for yours, and I pulled you into me. The friction, it turned to fire.
“I’m so glad to have you,
and it’s getting worse.
I’m so mad to love you,
and your evil curse.”
Blue eyes in the night, wide open and clear, your hair a wild mess of blonde curls, tangling as the desert wind blew at us. The water felt warm when we put our feet in, splashing each other, laughing to fill in the silence between us. You offered me a smoke and I took it, eager to have something to do with my hands, with my lips. You leaned towards me to light it, but kissed me instead, and all my nerves, all the wordless moments, they disappeared into the midnight haze. You pulled me into the water with you, holding my body close to yours, and whispered things I still hear sometimes when I toss and turn, fighting for sleep. We were mad for each other back then.