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Moby “Wait For Me” Review

Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Last Night, Moby’s last studio release, was an attempt by the musician to return to something comfortable. Quoting the album’s liner notes, “To me this record sounds like a night out in New York with all the sex and the weirdness and the disorientation and the celebration and the compelling chaos.” And the album encapsulated every bit of that; it was a return to a club scene that gave birth to the electronic artist two decades ago. It was less of a decisive stand suggesting that he was recapturing sounds from his past however, and more of a statement that he was living in the moment—the moment in his reality simply being reflected by the club scene at the time. Wait For Me represents something completely different however, rather than taking into account the spirit of his surroundings, the album represents the spirit of influence. In this particular case the source of such influence just happens to be director David Lynch.

As the story goes, “I started working on the album about a year ago, and the creative impetus behind the record was hearing David Lynch Speak at Bafta, in the UK. David was talking about creativity, and to paraphrase, about how creativity in and of itself, and without market pressures, is fine. It seems as if too often an artist’s or musician’s or writer’s creative output is judged by how well it accommodates the marketplace, and how much market share it commands and how much money it generates.”

The album is, in essence, derivative of the idea that returning to creating for the love of creating is what’s most important. Which in and of itself is a fantastic philosophy that points toward the epitome of art, but when you take Moby’s history into account, and his longstanding relationship with commercial outlets and adding dollar amounts to his musical creations, such a direction from the musician comes with as much initial appreciation as it does skepticism.

It should be noted, right from the beginning, that Moby has been a longstanding philanthropist who has performed at and contributed to a lengthy list of benefits and foundations that range from The Humane Society to the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function to the support of the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso and human rights in Tibet. The most important in the context of Wait For Me however is his Moby Gratis project, “This portion of moby.com, ‘film music’, is for independent and non-profit filmmakers, film students, and anyone in need of free music for their independent, non-profit film, video, or short.” Moby continues, “The music is free as long as it’s being used in a non-commercial or non-profit film, video, or short. If you want to use it in a commercial film or short then you can apply for an easy license, with any money that’s generated being given to the humane society.”

The reason that this is so fundamentally important is because Moby has traditionally been very accommodating of the marketplace in terms of the marketing of his music. His 1999 album Play was the first ever to have each and every one of its tracks licensed for commercial use (movies, television shows or commercials). Furthermore, tracks from both 18 and Last Night have also been licensed for use in movies and television shows (the Bourne trilogy and Cloverfield amongst others). But to say that he composed his music with commercial intent is far different than saying that he first composed his music, after which it was then subject to commercial interest. Either way, it’s an interesting page to turn for a musician who has so deeply been involved in the marketing of art.

Aside from his intent, there are a number of dramatic differences between his past recordings and Wait For Me. The album was recorded in his home studio (which Moby describes as a bedroom in his lower East-side Manhattan apartment) using a small set-up and but a few close (and at this point, largely unidentified) friends to help with the recording—Ken Thomas (Throbbing Gristle, M83, Sigur Rós) helped mix the album and a few female friends of his contributed vocals… that’s about it. Another difference is that the tone is a richly dark one, and is cast consistently throughout the album both lyrically and through much of the record’s deep, dreary sounds.

Wait For Me is such that while its 16 tracks are all somewhat distinct from one another, the album was written and composed as a complete piece—again something not traditionally Moby. The record begins with “Division,” a two-minute long instrumental that glides along with whispering synthetic strings. The following track, “Pale Horses,” continues to set the tone for the record with a female vocalist adding, “Put me on the train, send me back to my home/Couldn’t live without you when I tried to roam/Put me by the window, let me see outside/Looking at the places where all my family died.”

The album’s lead single, while being instrumental, again confronts the ongoing sadness that is evident throughout the record. “Shot in the Back of the Head” reveals an interesting inverted loop that works beneath moaning guitar to lend a picture of moroseness to the music. “Walk with Me” continues by utilizing vocals that sound almost like weeping, a female voice gasping “Take my hand, all along, won’t you take my hand.”

“Mistake” is the album’s first track that Moby contributes vocals to, moaning “You never felt this lost before, and the world is closing doors/I never wanted anything more.” Where Moby has made a habit of tossing in a few outliers on his albums, the relaxed “Mistake” is oddly about as far from the norm as Wait For Me gets musically. The guitar and drum machine that back him on the song are comparative to that on his cover of Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver” from 1996’s Animal Rights, only “Mistake” is entirely understated—even on the album’s most upbeat sounding song things still sound bleak.

The album continues through similar trends, “JItf” is a beautiful track that blends deliberate piano with melancholic lyrics, “Hope is Gone” is a slow burning ballad, “Ghost” and “Slow Light” deliver gloomy keys and “Isolate” concludes the record with a tone similar to “Shot in the Back of the Head,” if only with a less energy and a single violin playing in the background.

Regardless of history and intent, what Moby has created with Wait For Me is intensely personal. While the tone of the album’s songs are consistently reflective, and strikingly dark, as a whole they represent a piece of music that is the most thorough Moby has created in a decade. At times you hear Play, and at times you hear Everything is Wrong, but at no time can you hear a track that is truly expected. I remember thinking something similar when I first heard Play, before it drove commercials and was splattered on mainstream radio—the music in both situations has been made with integrity. I suppose that if money were to subsequently chase the music, you’d be a fool not to consider your options.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]