At best, a moving remembrance. At worst, sappy and monotonous
Reprise is an orchestral rework of former electronic artist Moby’s greatest hits from his more than 30-year-long career. Aided by the Budapest Arts Orchestra and artists such as Víkingur Ólafsson, Jim Jones, Kris Kristofferson and Amythyst Kiah, Moby has created a pleasant listening experience that does not contain any surprises. Though, it does not quite replicate the fresh feel of his earlier songs.
Though he is known for releasing electronic music in the ’90s and early 2000s, Moby’s music has jumped from punk, to rock, to electronic and choral dance music between albums, an orchestra-influenced remake of his earlier tracks is therefore unsurprising. Moby’s most well-known hits are largely based on his wildly successful 1999 Play album, though his debut single “Go” and “Extreme Ways” were also both popular. Reprise comes after a long and productive career, though none of Moby’s later albums, much of it ambient electronic music, reached the commercial success or popularity of Play.
As a new take, it is palatable, and at times, beautifully composed and articulated, in large part due to Moby’s collaboration with Budapest Arts Orchestra. Still, Reprise can at times be reminiscent of an aging classic rock band that an uncle might play at a barbeque and is ultimately not very exciting or substantial.
Reprise kicks off with “Everloving,” a remake from Play. Side-by-side, the two sound quite similar, though “Everloving (Reprise Version)” does carry a note of melancholy and sadness that the earlier version lacks. It is a lovely song, and the orchestra further elevates emotion on the track, but it does not add anything original to the song. “The Lonely Night” and “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters” are similar to “Everloving” in that they are stunning pieces that closely replicate tracks they were modeled after and are essentially flatter rock-influenced remakes of his older tracks.
With a new Afro-Caribbean-esque drumline, “Go” is one of the tracks on Reprise that feels pretty fresh. “Extreme Ways,” from 18 and 18 B-sides, and “Porcelain” from Play, are also both reworked, though lost is the original electronic version’s technical flair and lightness, replaced by the sentimental orchestral sound that characterizes a lot of Reprise.
Supplemented by a heartbreaking violin undercurrent, the gospel-inspired “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad” Reprise version is packed with a melodramatic and sonorous drama that the earlier track is lacking, though the 1999 version’s The Banks Brothers sample is achingly raw and iconic and poignant in its own way.
“Heroes (Reprise Version)” is a touching remembrance of Moby’s late-friend David Bowie, and the song is a slower, more somber take on the iconic upbeat Bowie track. From Moby’s remake, it is clear that the song belongs to Ziggy Stardust—the Reprise version does not add much to the original version, though it is a wistful nod to Bowie’s great legacy.
Reprise is capable of evoking pensive memories and feelings of nostalgia, but ultimately, Moby’s attempt at reflection does little more than artfully replay his earlier works with the accompaniment of an orchestra. The result is a pleasant and sometimes touching album that is kind of banal.