“Back to Now” – Skye

4 stars (out of 5)

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Product DetailsNow this is a nice surprise. Original (and recently returned) lead singer of the mid nineties and hugely successful trip hop pioneers Morcheeba, Skye Edwards has made a completely electronic chamber pop album and very nice it is too. This is her third solo album and the first to break out of her alt folksy, ‘acoustic with a smattering of beats’ sound; it’s still introspective and quietly soulful but this newly found, machine-made thrust has given Skye a welcome edge if not quite the pop sensibility she may have been hoping for.

The powerful beat and synths along with the tribal chanting of opener “Troubled Heart” immediately confirms a new sound but the warm, uplifting spirit of Morcheeba is still alive, at least at this point, and it’s not really until the third track and first single “Featherlight” that this album really settles into itself and establishes a mood which serves Skye’s angelic voice beautifully. “Featherlight” has a taut pop melody and a sincerity and aloofness that are compelling and, my old argument, this is the kind of song would have, once upon a time, sold in decent quantities. “Nowhere”, with its synthetic strings frantically dicing up a dramatic tension, has some sublime upper range vocals and three different time signatures. “Little Bit Lost” sounds like a Richard X production; an indie very British lo-fi synth sound and “We Fall Down” is a duet with a vocoder (not the dreaded autotune, please let’s be clear about that) and it’s here that Skye resembles Moroder’s early work with Donna Summer; that sublime combination of steel and humanity.

Dissolve” is the album’s big song, sung in a rarely-heard lower register with Skye almost growling ‘onto knees we fall and search unto the sky as we crawl without a reason why’ and it’s great to hear her in such a cold, imposing and ever-changing electronic soundscape. The effervescent final track “Bright Light” is a meditative return to hope; ‘I’ll pull you out again, my rope will lead you there’ and sounds for all the world like a William Orbit production from Madonna’s definitive comeback album, “Ray of Light”. Time and again here the reference point I kept coming back to was turn of the millennium Madonna, in particular the Orbit and Mirwais-produced  “Light” and “Music” where Madonna was at her most riveting both creatively and lyrically . It’s interesting that Skye’s debut solo album “Mind How You Go” was actually co-produced and written by Patrick Leonard, probably Madonna’s best and certainly most returned-to collaborator (and time to make that call again Madge).

What Skye lacks maybe is that pop ‘wink’, the artifice and ridiculousness of Goldfrapp or Kylie, say; I’m not saying that this is her intention but I do wonder who exactly, bar the hardcore Morcheeba fans, this collection will appeal to and that’s a shame as subsequently this venture, sonically at least, could well be a one off. Many of the songs will stand up well to acoustic readings and performed live would incorporate well into a Morcheeba heavy set; I hope that this is exposure enough to enable Skye to keep on experimenting with her wholly exquisite voice and talent. Seek this one out.