Moby “Destroyed” Review
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Album Reviews, Music.
Destroyed stands as quite the milestone for Moby as it is his tenth full-length studio album, coming nearly two decades after he issued his self-titled debut. It also serves as somewhat of an artistic retrospective for the multi-faceted artist: A soundtrack to his own personal insomnia, Destroyed takes on a variety of sounds that have echoed throughout his entire career. While the familiar sounds that are laced throughout the album translate as rather comforting, the album itself seems to be the outcome of a rather crucial artistic period in Moby’s career. The electronic ease which flows throughout Destroyed comes at a time when it isn’t impossible for the average producer to shake a solid album out of their figurative sleeve. Recognizing this himself, Moby recently expanded on that the idea in an interview with Wired.
“Now literally anyone with a laptop, or even an iPhone, can make decent-sounding records. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I mean, it’s a lot more egalitarian, but it seems like there is something to be said for spending a long time figuring out how to make a record, and then spending a long time actually making a record. Now it seems like there is an awful lot of people making records that are quite good, but not an awful lot of people making records that are truly great. That’s the downside to remarkable software. You can sit down with Reason or Ableton and literally in a couple of hours make a very good-sounding record. But then a lot of people become contented with that, rather than pushing themselves to making something that sounds great.”
This statement is increasingly crucial as the 15-track release plays out, but not in the sense that it reinforces the intent and execution of Destroyed, but that it questions its purpose. It would be a bit dramatic to suggest that Moby might simply be another faceless Soundcloud DJ had he started his career some two decades later than he did, but relating his aforementioned statement to how Destroyed actually plays out, such a conclusion might not be too far from the mark.
Opening with the airy, winding synth of “The Broken Places,” the slow winding nature of the album is again stressed in the piano & beat driven “Victoria Lucas” and the bubbling “Blue Moon”; the latter being a track which also finds its pace through focusing on Moby’s calm, layered vocals. One aspect of the Moby’s music that hasn’t historically been as acclaimed as others has been Moby’s lyrics — often criticized as too scant to hold up to his rather impressive instrumental capabilities — but within a minimal framework, “Be The One” and “The Day” challenge this by each offering unique, emotional hooks.
While the former revolves around the idea of relational complication (“I’ll never see what you wanted, love… I was the one when you needed love”), “The Day” thematically surrounds the emotions Moby felt regarding the passing of his mother. Solemnly repeating “I will be right here/Til all the pain just disappear/I will always stay/Til all this light just kills the day,” the ode progresses into one of the most emotionally inspiring songs on Destroyed, combining the poignant lyrics with an equally moving soundtrack. Though not maintaining a lyrical focus, the theme of “Lie Down in Darkness,” which follows “The Day,” serves as a wake for the feelings which the track introduces: a familiar soulful hum Play-fully awakening the chant “Now that you’re gone…”
Just has he did with Wait For Me, Moby utilizes a selection of female vocalists throughout Destroyed, this time Emily Zuzik and Inyang Bassey contributing to “The Low Hum,” “Rockets” and “The Right Thing.” Unlike his last release however, the album includes a variety of tracks which interject a bit of animation to the flow of things. “Sevastopol,” for instance, serves as a quirky instrumental which rekindles an old love for gliding synths and a focused club sound, while “After” adds a brush stroke of swooping electronica.
As has been a recurring theme over the course of his career, the album does dip into the realm of symphonic electronics, but in the case of Destroyed Moby assumes this sound late in the recording. While the final four songs all bear a similar tone, flow and consistency, they unexpectedly add emphasis to the idea conveyed by Moby through his Wired comments. Following “Stella Maris” the album reaches a dramatic peak with the seven-minute “The Violent Bear It Away.” Yet despite coming to what might seem a logical conclusion, Destroyed still floats on with the eight minute “Lacrimae” before ending with “When You Are Old.” It’s during these tracks that revisiting one of Moby’s thoughts becomes crucial: the idea that artists have grown increasingly likely to become satisfied with “good-sounding” music rather than striving for something great.
In the case of Destroyed, a focus on self-editing could have possibly given it a desired succinctness, rather than allowing the album to wind on past the point where it remains engaging. Even eliminating the album’s final ten minutes wouldn’t offer enough evidence to suggest that Destroyed is as complete a piece as the musician’s delivered in the past though. Moby’s a talented and well-rounded musician whose obsession toward analog electronics and Heavy Metal alike have helped him grow as a remarkable musician, but without the previous barriers to entry that once allowed Moby to develop his talents as a producer (and DJ, even) an aimless trip through electronic sounds of the past seems far less appealing. As long as electronic music exists, Moby will likely be revered as one of the giants who helped shape its history. But while it sounds good throughout (quite good at times, even) and serves as a welcomed summation of his past two decades of work, the largest milestone which Destroyed might represent may be that it stands as his least essential album to date.
[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]