Moby Returns With A Thoughtful Vengeance A full decade after his landmark album Play, techno musician Moby has released an album called Wait for Me. Music critic Robert Christgau thinks it's almost worthy of its great predecessor.
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Moby Returns With A Thoughtful Vengeance

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Moby Returns With A Thoughtful Vengeance

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Music Reviews

Moby Returns With A Thoughtful Vengeance

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Next week, the musician Moby puts out his latest album, it's called "Wait for Me."

Our critic Robert Christgau thinks it's Moby's best in a decade.

ROBERT CHRISTGAU: In June of 1999, Moby released the album of a lifetime, "Play."

"Play" was a surging and receding construct of techno beats and blues and gospel samples. It went platinum, not due to radio or dance floor exposure, but because every track was eventually recycled in soundtracks and ads. Even when it was said, "Play" was happy.

(Soundbite of song, "Natural Blues")

Mr. MOBY (Musician): (Singing) Don't nobody know by troubles but God. Don't nobody know my troubles but God. Oh, Lordy, trouble so hard...

CHRISTGAU: Moby released three worthy albums at three-year intervals in the wake of "Play." But not until June of 2009 did he give us anything so consistently melodic and compelling, which is not to say it's fun.

The album is called "Wait for Me" and so is this track.

(Soundbite of song, "Wait for Me")

Ms. AMELIA ZIRIN BROWN (Singer): (Singing) I'm gonna ask you to look away. Hmm. I love my hands, but it hurts to pray. The life I have isn't what I've seen. The sky's not blue and the field's not green. Wait for me.

CHRISTGAU: Where "Play" concluded by decelerating into a sustained thoughtfulness, on "Wait for Me," tempos are slow throughout. It never hints at celebration.

Recording took place in Moby's home studio on New York's Lower East Side, with nine of the 16 tracks instrumental. Most of the vocal parts are by friends, but that doesn't mean Moby has abandoned sampling's fascination with decayed sound.

On "Pale Horses," he gave the singer a $70 mic, then fed the recorded vocal into an old tape machine before rerecording it onto the track.

(Soundbite of song, "Pale Horses")

Ms. BROWN: (Singing) Leave my by the church (unintelligible), leave me on my own. Someone come and take me back to my old home. Put me by the window, let me see outside. Looking on the places all my family died, all my family died, all my family died, all my family died.

CHRISTGAU: If "Wait for Me" establishes anything beyond its own right to stand there and be beautiful, it's that money doesn't guarantee happiness. Moby is a rich man as well as an articulate guy, who's had more than a share of political moments. But on this record, he's not indicting wrongdoers or translated the injustice he's seen into music. The pain he expresses lyrically and embodies sonically is his own, you wonder whether there's a death or a breakup aching underneath.

But there's a grandeur and dignity and calm acceptance in this music too. The sense of spiritual accomplishment even transcendence. The techno discos where Moby launched his career made a big deal of the chill out room, where dancers could collect themselves in the aftermath of ecstasy. But most of the music designed for those spaces felt empty compared to "Wait for Me."

Moby describes the final track, "Isolate," as Nick Drake with a drum machine and no vocals. Chill.

(Soundbite of song, "Isolate")

SIEGEL: Our critic Robert Christgau writes the "Consumer Guide to CDs" at msn.com. The new CD from Moby is called "Wait for Me," and you can hear the entire album at nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of song, "Isolate")

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