Moby may be weary, but a full dose of trip-hop and some transcendent moments bring back his pioneering years.
Label: Little Idiot / Mute Records
Time: 12 tracks / 55 minutes
All things bleak and beautiful, a creature great and small. On this release, Moby bares all: the shame of his past, his helplessness and pain in the present and his fear of a dystopian future.
But, being Moby, despite the weary melancholy inherent throughout, he produces moments of great beauty, even transcendence.
Musically, this is almost ‘old’ Moby, with orchestral washes, shimmering synths, piano motifs, spoken words (by him), sung vocals, sometimes treated (by Rachel Rodriguez, Mindy Jones et al) and bursts of blues and gospel, all put through a near-constant trip-hop filter.
Moby adds his own spoken lyrics to the much covered blues/gospel track “Motherless Child” using the chorus and borrowing a Zeppelin riff for a track that would fit neatly onto Play.
Titles are unremittingly dark, several taken from W.B. Yeats’ seminal “The Second Coming,” and that fear of where humanity is heading, informed by his own sense of failure, fuels the tracks. Lyrics match those titles:
“Waiting for the world to end
Waiting for the light to bend like stars
Waiting for the silent end
Bringing us a fate that's just so hard
Walked into hard times
Stepped into hard times.”
The more repetitive sections with dour spoken lyrics (“The Last of Goodbyes”) will question the border between chilled and overlong, but they convey the mood he is expressing. Having done the political climate in his last two albums, he is washed out and reflecting on the human condition that produces it. He has said in interview that rather than blast people for the choices they make, he wants to work compassionately at the individual level to understand the reasons behind "these terrible choices."
This honest, searching grower of an album, which sprinkles spiritual references as liberally as parmesan over pizza, ends with the psalm-like “A Dark Cloud is Coming,” which begs the question, what would have happened, had he not given up on faith?”
He yearns for integrity and almost writes a church confession in "This Wild Darkness." For me, it is the outstanding highlight. Moby admits,
“I can't stand on my own anymore
I can't stand in the stain of the broken and poor
I can't break what I held and it never was true
In the mirror what I said was I lied to you
And me and everything I see and everything I could
Tried so hard to be good
For myself, for you, for the hidden and divine
For everything but I can fail just so many times.”
If only he realised the depths of grace.
But still a gospel choir choruses, “In this darkness, please light my way.” It’s as beautiful as he has ever sounded.