Tuesday, March 22, 2011

MobySongs 1993-1998

As an anthology and de facto best-of that sets out to cover the heights of Moby's career across arguably his best six years, this jilted-label follow-on to the megahit Play always did have the better chance of being the better album, and so it seems to me that it is. It's the one to park in the car player for weeks and months on endless loop, and the one to reach for when house guests with marijuana want to know a little more about this Moby character. It's not set up like most anthologies, proceeding chronologically through a career, but rather jumps about casually within its title-specified time frame. Indeed, the sequencing seems thoroughly meditated because its effect is so nigh perfect—it's one of the few albums I never play on shuffle, even on my computer, where I have the entire planet more or less set to shuffle. I said before that Play had no innovations but in one way at least it's certainly different from the material here: the roots sourcing of old blues and gospel musical figures is far more explicit on Play. Yet I do hear or sense on some level the orientation, or the grasping for it, compressed deeply into the grain of the sound. If he's not very soulful, and I think a good case can be made that he is that exactly, at least it's apparent how much he wants to be. The sounds here can veer close in some moments to the kind of new-age background music that professional massage therapists pack along with their oils and tables, but it never quite evaporates into aural wallpaper and often sails into the room and slows or stops conversation like angels walking over graves. Moby's general intentions are evident even in titles such as "Hymn," "God Moving Over the Face of the Waters," the 10:47 "Alone," "The Rain Falls and the Sky Shudders," and "Grace," which have the ability to soar. But I say his intentions are equally evident in the wukka-wukka neo-blaxploitation soundtrack number "I Like to Score." And my favorites are his classic techno moments, "Go," "Move (You Make Me Feel So Good)," and "Anthem," each assembled and proceeding as deliberately as anything else here, invariably producing an irresistible urge to move and, somehow, an undeniable sense of comfort and well-being at multiple levels. Not sure how he's doing that, but I do keep listening.

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