Music Reviews

Moby Innocents

(Mute (Universal)) Rating - 7/10

Richard Melville Hall sprang to fame off the back of one of the most successful albums of all-time, 1999’s Play. With each and every track being licensed for commercial use, Moby’s work was suddenly everywhere, swamping the movies, television programmes and advertisements with its lush cinematic soundscapes.

But such highs came at a price: 18 was the 2002 follow-up which, although achieving huge success at over five million worldwide sales, this fared only half as well as its predecessor and marked the beginning of the decline. Moby himself has stated that artists experiencing massive success with one album spend the rest of their careers seeking similar heights which are rarely realised; now having come to terms with the realisation that this is nigh on impossible, Innocents is an eclectic offering primarily created to satiate Moby himself, with the hope that others may also find it interesting.

The first album since 2011’s Destroyed, and the first to feature a co-producer - Mark ‘Spike’ Spent (Muse, Madonna, Björk) - Innocents marks a return to the presence of guest vocalists, most notably The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and ex-Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan, collaborations accounting for seven of the 12 tracks here.

Everything That Rises opens the album – a classic slice of Moby, with a repetitive sample looped over the entire track, swamped with cinematic, sweeping synthesisers that encapsulate everything you would expect from the man, providing the best non-collaborative effort of the entire collection. Of the other solo tracks, Going Wrong is fairly unconvincing, being a mellow minimalist background music effort built around a three-note piano pattern, whilst album closer The Dogs meanders along for nine minutes with Moby’s own vocals adorning proceedings; the track builds in intensity and emotion throughout, but ultimately it’s probably a little too long. A Long Time and Saints complete the solo set, the former being in the vein of the album opener complete with looped African chant set alongside serene synths, and the latter is a distant cousin of Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, albeit with only occasional vocal loops breaking the instrumental passages.

The Lonely Night (featuring Mark Lanegan) was released as a 7” single for Record Store Day, and represents one of the more unusual collaborations here, with Lanegan being far from the bread and butter vocalist you would normally find on a Moby record, his distinctive baritone warbling alongside subtle synth strings creates a dull, if atmospheric, number. One thing that Innocents has in its favour is the variety of genres touched upon, and The Perfect Life (featuring Wayne Coyne) is tinged with gospel; its piano-led intro beams its way into life like a ray of sunshine - a far cry from the horror and despair that Coyne portrayed in The Flaming Lips’ 2013 album The Terror.

The official lead single from the album, A Case For Shame features Cold Specks, a more recognised type of vocal presence for a Moby record; it’s a curious choice for a single though, being rather a muted, serene effort similar to Cold Specks’ other contribution here Tell Me, neither of which make much of a lasting impression. Almost Home (with Damien Jurado on vocal duties) is a stronger song, his blissfully sublime vocals soaring above trademark synth strings to create a heavenly piece of beauty, albeit one that follows a familiar chord sequence. The Last Day, with delicately soft, sultry vocals performed by Skylar Grey, provides another classic Moby piece built around a sampled vocal loop to create quite possibly the album highlight. Inyang Bassey is the final vocal contributor on the album, her repeated “I know you don’t love me but you don’t have to be so mean, treat me like the worst thing you’ve ever seen” sticking in the head long after its conclusion as a funky beat plays out the song alongside a constant piano line.

With Moby seemingly having found happiness in producing music for his own pleasure, it’s unlikely he will care whether or not the album sells in vast quantities or little at all; the reality is that it will of course be somewhere between the two, deserving probably more sales than it will achieve. The collaborations are interesting, and at times fascinating, but there is little doubt that the destiny of most tracks here will be, once again, as sonic accompaniments to visual productions.