Moby: “Wait for Me”

Moby wait for me cover

The cover of Moby’s latest album, Wait for Me, is quite unlike any of his previous album covers. It differs from most of his album artwork in that it’s one of the rare Moby cover images that doesn’t prominently feature the artist’s own bald, bespectacled head. In that regard, it bears a superficial similarity to the image adorning Last Night, but in most other respects it’s entirely different from that one, as well; gone are the glitzy, Photoshopped glamor models and garish colors of that album sleeve, and in their place is a simple, mostly black-and-white doodle that the artist drew himself.

Within those two observations you can essentially find the heart of Wait for Me: An abandonment of ego, a return to simplicity, a certain spiritual purity and childlike sense of contentment. Those elements not only make this his richest and most sophisticated work since Play, but also the most striking and different. It’s quiet, leisurely in tempo, gradual in its steady-handed unfolding. In other words, this is a Moby album that probably won’t serve as the soundtrack to any car commercials or action movies: This is a mournful and somber work, more appropriate for reflection and meditation.

Sad though it may be, however, this music isn’t gloomy. Actually, there’s a certain cleansing, cathartic quality to it, embodying a quality of spiritual renewal that just might reflect the artist’s own coming to contentment. It’s been ten years since Play went multiplatinum, and that decade has seen every single track from that album licensed to commercials or movies, while Moby himself continues to labor over relatively aimless, creatively dry records that neither sold as well nor spoke so vividly as Play. And maybe he’s finally okay with that: With Wait for Me, he’s abandoned any aims to replicate past successes, instead making an album of artistic and spiritual purity that finds serenity and peace even in its darkest moments.

Ironically, settling down and making music that’s as contemplative and honest as this results in Moby returning to a few of the characteristics that made Play so alluring. The title of that album summed up its spirit of curiosity perfectly, and it fits this record, too; it may not be “playful” in the same way that Play was, but it certainly carries itself with a sense of wonderment and wide-eyed joy, even if it is a joy in the midst of grieving. The bluesy samples that gave Play its heart and its spirituality are back, as well: Snippets of gospel songs and spirituals are repeated throughout the album, not only giving it its roots but also illuminating the themes born in the music, with universal signifiers of journeying and overcoming serving as verbal expressions of the music’s sense of perseverance, its hope in the face of turmoil.

But what makes it stick– and indeed, what characterizes the very best of Moby’s music– is that the samples aren’t tacked on to hammer home his philosophical point of view, but rather to enrich and enhance the music, which speaks loudly and clearly on its own, samples or no. (Indeed, over half of the album is totally wordless.) As a composer, Moby has grown substantially without losing his hunger; the tracks here are almost as indebted to classical music as to techno in the strictest sense, and the whole record feels much more immersive and natural than most of what’s played in clubs. But of course, making music for the clubs wasn’t Moby’s ambition, at least not this time, and the result is an album that’s not just very fine, but moving and meaningful as well.

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