Moby | Wait For Me
Most Likely To: either mesmerize or anaesthetize a listener.
For those who remember the beginnings of his career, the realization that 2010 will mark the twentieth anniversary of Richard Melville Hall’s first release under the name Moby is one of those “oh God, I’m getting so old” gut-check moments. Moby has aged and matured right along with his audience, progressing from former hardcore punk to becoming the first recognizable face of techno and ascending to unlikely superstardom at the turn of the millennium with his unavoidable album Play, only to spend the last few descending from that pinnacle. He’s covered a lot of ground in those twenty years, and while he’s still slotted as a techno artist in the CD bins he’s been more of a chameleon in the Bowie mode than that classification would indicate.
Everything Is Wrong, the 1995 disc that was his proper first album (after several collections of singles and assorted works) laid out the eclectic agenda he would explore for the rest of his career. Veering from standard techno workouts with found vocals to speedcore to orchestral tone poems to Cocteau Twins-style ambient pop, Everything Is Wrong staked out the waters future Moby albums would navigate, with subsequent albums lifting a specific chunk to dive into in greater depth.
On Wait For Me, Moby’s style-spinner lands on Everything Is Wrong’s “When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die” and “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters.” In other words, listeners looking for ecstatic dance numbers would do well to move along–there’s nothing for them here. Instead, Wait For Me is Moby’s most sedate album ever, on first listen feeling like the tranquil ebb and flow crescendos of “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters” stretched to album length. It’s not what anyone would consider an immediate grabber, nor is it one that will reveal its strengths via a casual listening. Moby has recorded an album that demands either strict attention or to be ignored entirely–anything less than dedicated attention renders it background music. A listener could be excused for finding the album soporific.
With attention, though, Wait For Me reveals itself as a beautiful, somewhat mournful work. Inspired by a David Lynch interview on the merits of creating art without concern how it might be received commercially, the album is low on potential singles and high on texture and mood. On the first vocal track on the album, “Pale Horses,” Moby friend Amelia Zirin Brown relates a doleful tale of a train ride back to “where all my family died.” But while the overall mood is somewhat funereal, it’s not a joyless downer but instead a gorgeous, meditative work.
The first single “Shot In the Back of the Head” blends moody washes of keyboard and synthetic choir vocals with processed guitar licks, resulting in a song that sounds like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark dabbling with shoegazing. “Mistake,” the most upbeat song on the album and the only one featuring Moby himself on vocals, blends a skeletal techno beat with a post-punk guitar line. Other tracks, like the title tune and “JTLF,” unfold like half-forgotten dreams, with tranquil female vocals wafting atop placid soundscapes.
Wait For Me is not the most immediate album in Moby’s catalog but, appropriately enough for his impending 20th anniversary as a recording artist, it’s one of his most mature. Taking Lynch’s challenge to heart, this is an album that was obviously made for no reason other than it was the one Moby wanted to make. He risked making an album that much of his audience might find off-putting or even depressing, and that’s ultimately a very admirable thing.