Upgrade to Version 4
Moby has been made out by the media and the masses to be an electronica laughing stock. It’s a position not taken carelessly or without merit. His work in the big-beat era never had the biggest beats; his involvement in rock music has been hopelessly cliched; he’s a profiteer par excellence for movies and commercials; his social and political involvement is earnest to a fault. So it’s likely difficult for observers to acknowledge or care that Moby’s latest album Destroyed is actually the third straight solid one he’s released.
Destroyed helps delineate another portion of his career. Following his underground buzz, his rise to fame on the Mute and V2 labels (culminating in the ubiquitous Play), and his subsequent downward spiral of overexposure and underachievement, Moby version 4.0 has struck some creative mother lode over the last three years. Last Night found him recapturing a measure of his techno heyday, and Wait for Me was possibly his best effort at introspective electro-pop. Now he’s trying his hand at broken-beat songcraft—and succeeding.
There are some moments where Moby props himself up on past successes. “Lie Down in Darkness” revisits the Play formula of midtempo beats behind female blues/gospel cooing and swooping, key-shifting synths. “Victoria Lucas” has familiar piano-house underpinnings. Yet we also get tracks like “Sevastopol,” “Rockets,” and the near-epic “Lacrimae” adding fuzzy Friends of Friends loops and layers of distortion to the mix. That may be no sweat in the studio, but for once it feels like Moby’s expanding his sonic palette.
A number of ladies handle most vocals; Emily Zuzik’s appearance on “The Low Hum,” for example, gives the song a Trentmoeller feel. It’s always good when Moby chooses to hide or eliminate his own voice, yet he’s actually tolerable on songs like “The Day” and “After,” the latter being one of the moodiest tracks we can recall from him. He also gets big and spacious near the end of the album, offering up wide-open tracks like “Stella Maris” as a reward for making it through. Multifaceted and redemptive, Destroyed is a release with as misleading a title as there could be. It’s evidence that Moby is in fact piecing his reputation back together.