With Moby now onto his eleventh studio album, Innocents, the days of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Gwen Stefani and Sir Elton John, getting into high-profile feuds with Eminem and appearing on nearly every film, TV and advert soundtrack going all seem a distant memory.
The reason that the bald, brainy and bespectacled producer became such an unlikely pop-culture favourite was of course 1999’s Play, an innovative blend of electronica, gospel, blues and samples of mid-20th Century field recordings which sold over twelve million copies. But apart from 2001’s follow-up 19, the native New Yorker has largely avoided the same antiquated approach with interesting but largely ignored ventures into alt-rock (Hotel), house (Last Night) and ambient IDM (Destroyed).
However, Innocents finds Moby returning to the cinematic melancholic sound that transformed him from a techno nerd into one of the world’s biggest-selling pop stars—most notably on the lo-fi electronica of “A Long Time,” which features the same kind of haunting vintage vocal that defined the likes of “Natural Blues” and “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad,” and the string-soaked opening instrumental, “Everything That Rises,” which recalls the widescreen glory of signature hit “Porcelain.”
This time round, however, he’s also teamed up with an intriguing array of guest artists who are still very much alive, including The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne on “The Perfect Life,” a life-affirming slice of gospel-pop which disguises a deceptively bleak account of heroin withdrawal; doom-soul chanteuse Cold Specks, who lends her gutsy vocals to the washed-out trip-hop of “A Case For Shame” and “Tell Me”; and Damien Jurado on the vulnerable folktronica of “Almost Home.”
“The Dogs,” the nine-minute maudlin closer which Moby admits he doesn’t expect anyone else to listen to, and the gothic gloom of “The Lonely Night,” both suggest he has little interest in revisiting his chart-conquering heyday. But while Innocents won’t propel him back onto the MTV stage, it’s still his best and most beautiful record in over a decade.