Album review: Chris Morphitis – Where To Go

by Thomas Blake

Londoner Chris Morphitis has a long and varied history as a sideman, producer and composer of soundtracks, and recent collaborations of note include stints with Damon Albarn darlings the Owiny Sigoma Band from Kenya and Greek psych outfit Mavrika. His latest solo album Where To Go takes these seemingly disparate strands and combines them, adding for good measure a hint of Moroccan folk, a touch of good old fashioned western European classical music, maybe some Argentine roots, and probably a whole load of other things that will only reveal themselves on multiple listens.

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This admirably global approach to folk music – and Morphitis’ willingness to take the back seat and let his compositions do the talking – makes for a democratic and refreshingly unvirtuosic record. But it is neither dull nor overdone. Opener The Count mixes a delicate North African sounding melody played on European instruments with a minimal – often barely noticeable – piano figure. Claustro flips things round – a psychy, distorted electric guitar leads into a high-pitched hailstorm of piano before softening the blow with gentle acoustic guitar and violin. The Satie-esque piano that opens Embrace betrays Morphitis’ background as a composer of film scores, before the piece mutates into something like a southern European folk dance, while the scratchy strings on Yellow Lines are decidedly un-European.

On If S2 Morphitis reins in the speedily-plucked strings in favour of a lithe electric guitar line mirrored by deliberate piano and backed up with more traditional rock percussion. The album’s high point though is arguably its title track. It is here that the geographical influences come together in deceptively simple melodies which are never muddied by the wealth of musical styles on show. Even more interesting, perhaps, is the final composition, Chartwell – a homage to Chartwell Dutiro, doyen of Zimbabwe’s national instrument, the mbira. It represents the album in microcosm – subtle, sympathetic musicianship, lovingly produced and with a surprising ear for melody.

 

Where To Go is released 11th November on Village Green

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