Moby’s Innocents

I admit, it took me a couple of days to get a handle on Moby’s Innocents. Maybe that’s because it arrived when I was just coming down with a bug that pretty much knocked me out for two or three days. (I’m all better now, thank you.)

Some highlights:

“Everything that Rises” – The opening track. Moby’s music relies a great deal, as I’m coming to understand, even more than most music on the kind of hypnosis induced by repetition. In this one, there’s almost an Eastern feel to it, mostly, I think, because of the plucked – mandolin? bouzouki? – against the lush electronica. And it really is hypnotic.

“A Case for Shame” – featuring Cold Specks. I love this song. I think it’s the combination of Cold Specks’ earthy vocals and the sinuosity of the musical line – and the almost biological rhythm: the music doesn’t have a beat so much as a pulse.

“The Last Day” – Another one of those quirky songs that couldn’t be by anyone but Moby – his almost staccato vocals against much smoother, almost velvety vocals by Skylar Grey. Interesting layers, with Moby moving into the background but still there – gives a somewhat ironic twist to the music.

“Don’t Love Me” – Vocals by Inyang Bassey, cast as a solid blues number. A little spare in orchestration for Moby. This one takes off.

“The Lonely Night” – Vocals by Mark Lanegan. Somehow, Lanegan’s rough, throaty, somewhat tenuous vocals are just perfect for this low-key, understated song. A real gem.

The Deluxe Edition comes with a second CD, an EP (“Everyone Is Gone”) that is all Moby, all the time. (Well, almost – there are vocals – as Moby seems to understand the term — by Julie Mintz (“I Tried”), Mindy Jones (“Miss Lantern”), and Joy Malcolm (“Blindness”) – so it’s all Moby half the time.) There are six tracks on this one, although none stands out particularly except the last one, “My Machines,” with a breathy, almost subliminal vocal by Moby. It’s rather haunting. (One notable thing about Moby’s music is how often he literally treats voices as another instrument – as often as not, they become part of the general instrumentation rather than solo instruments.)

The package includes a booklet that in turn includes pictures of all the songs – which is to say, figures in bizarre and sometimes frightening masks, mostly, and a couple of haunting and highly abstract landscapes – and list, which does duty as Moby’s essay. It’s about as random as everything else here.

Now that my brain is back in a real space, I find myself enjoying this album as much as I have others by Moby. I have to admit, when I first listened, my reaction was “What have I done?!?” but it all makes more sense now. It’s definitely a strong album, although I’m not sure that’s the right word to use – maybe “substantial” is better.

(Mute U.S., 2013)

About Robert Tilendis

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there.

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