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Thoughts on Moby’s Destroyed

21/05/2011
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Moby and I share a love for “empty cities at 2am” (quoting his press releases). It’s fascinating to wade through cities, on foot or in car, when they’ve gone to bed. Streets that used to be filled with armies of people and cars rushing everywhere and the constant barrage of sound eminating from them are all of a sudden transformed into quiet and empty urban corridors with only the occasional traveller sharing the space. I’m not often up and about in the wee hours of the day – I’m mostly a stay-at-home morning person – but whenever the occasion occurs I find myself a bit spellbound by the sudden peace that is normally impossible to find from a busy city.

Destroyed is the self-described soundtrack for those empty cities at 2am. It’s Moby’s second release on his own label and away from the pressures and problems that turned most of his 00s output into testaments of Moby going through the motions, trying to do something that was expected of him. Like his first post-‘recovery’ album Wait for Me, Destroyed is a sombre, subtle album. A tinge of melancholy runs throughout it, the deep sound rewards those who focus on the album through headphones and atmosphere is raised to the spotlight. But in contrast to Wait for Me’s dreamy softness, Destroyed sounds like its thematic inspiration. It’s active. It’s night-time music to drift away with, but it rarely stays in one dreamy cloud for very long. It bustles with life. Most tracks are characterised by a decidedly buzzing, active electronic background and several are downright energetic. It’s night-time city music: the ‘official’ description for the album is rather appropriate.

Most importantly, it’s not just the atmosphere that’s been done right but Destroyed is a great album overall. Wait for Me was a refreshingly strong and focused album after a decade-or-so of good but somewhat aimlessly wondering and filler-troubled efforts, and if Destroyed is to be believed then taking a more independent look to creating and releasing music has genuinely revived Moby to his fullest. Regarding his past filler issues, perhaps the most astonishing feat in Destroyed is that it goes on for around 72 minutes and, unlike most similar doorstoppers, never overstays its welcome and hardly sounds like it goes on for more than an hour. The constant shift in musical tone is one clear reason for that. Destroyed moves from quiet ambient to atmospheric dance, from electronica-tinged rock and synthpop to a stripped down string and choir piece. Very few moments offer something that’s already familiar from the album and there’s hardly a weaker moment among the tracks: “Lie Down in Darkness” sounds perhaps a bit too close to the previous album than Destroyed, but it’s certainly not a bad song. The likes of “Sevastopol”, “Blue Moon” and “Lacrimae” are some of the best Moby in a while, and there’s certain moments that bring something completely new to the man’s repertoire in a powerfully successfully way, namely the high-pressure synth-rock “Be the One”, hard-hitting “After” and the aforementioned choir + voice piece “Stella Maris”. The bittersweet and bombastic lead single “The Day” goes on to show how Moby’s singing voice has really grown from the guy-next-door charm of the yore to a genuinely great voice.

Notably, even from a guy who’s actually liked the vast majority of what Mr Hall’s been doing since his peaking point on Play, Destroyed is the first album that sounds like a genuine move forward and a musical culmination point of sorts; even Wait for Me, as wonderfully lovely as it is, was more or less Moby focusing on one of his strongest sides rather than bringing anything new to the table. Destroyed on the other hand sounds like it’s been born from a genuine treasure find of brand new inspiration, containing an element of progression rather than simply going off in a random sidepath to somewhere else or bringing in more of the good but admittedly the same. Which is vastly exciting in its own right.

So, to recap: great atmosphere, great songs, great direction. Well done, Mr Hall. I cannot wait to get the chance to play this in its intended environment.


Sevastopol

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