For much of the past decade, sparked by the much-heralded and ubiquitous Play, Moby has kept his focus more on polished electronic pop than atmospheric soundscapes which once were his specialty. The results of his forays into rock music were mixed, from the enjoyable new wave of 2002’s 18, to the shlocky alt-rock of 2005’s Hotel, to the decidedly better disco sleaze of 2008’s Last Night. For his latest effort, Wait For Me, Moby turned away from bombastic rock to create something more ambient and meditative. It’s a warm and hypnotic record, one vastly different than the series of albums that preceded it. It’s also the best thing Moby’s done in a damn long time.
Much as he did in his “Twin Peaks”-sampling breakthrough single “Go,” Moby took inspiration from David Lynch on Wait For Me, or more specifically, from a speech given by Lynch about making art without regard for commercialism or how it can be perceived as a marketable good. As such, Wait For Me is one of the less radio-friendly albums in Moby’s catalogue, though by no means his least accessible. In fact, it’s a very likable album, awash in delicate waves of synth and hushed beats, showing a more elegant and dreamy side of the bald beatmaker.
“Pale Horses,” the first of several tracks featuring female vocals, finds Amelia Zirin Brown delivering her downcast, morose lyrics through a thin filter of static, as Moby’s string-like synthscapes provide a sorrowful backdrop to match. First single “Shot In the Back of the Head” is a bit more lively by comparison, a distorted, backward-sampling downtempo track that’s beautiful beneath its disorienting grime. Leela James delivers a soulful and bluesy vocal in “Walk With Me,” a standout track reminiscent of some of the best moments on Play. “Mistake,” the only track to feature Moby’s own singing, is a slight disappointment, primarily because its mopey new wave sound feels somewhat out of place among the more elegant tracks here. “Scream Pilots,” in contrast, is a wonderful instrumental, pairing twinkling piano, woozy synths and a mid-tempo beat to create a stellar track reminiscent of M83’s more cinematic works.
Whether or not it truly was Moby’s intention to cast commercialism aside and make the album he wanted to, marketing be damned, he’s done something pretty special here. Wait For Me is by no means anti-commercial. Rather, it’s just not an album that seeks out the obvious hooks or unnecessarily bathes in excess sheen. It’s merely a lovely electronic record, the kind that Moby has proven he’s capable of making but, for reasons I can’t figure out, seemed to avoid for so long.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.