Moby follows up the ambitious electronic dance-floor inspired concept album Last Night with a complete different animal. Recorded in a small studio, Wait For Me is much more intimate, full of tiny epics, soaring orchestral arrangements by miniature orchestras (the mix is by Ken Thomas who works with Sigur Rós) and a clearly personal touch. The album has been promoted with a downbeat instrumental and ‘hand drawn’ video directed by David Lynch, an inspiration for the project.
The big problem with Last Night is ambition makes way for detachment. An attempt to create a soulful celebration of dance music created a lonely journey through the empty clubs and bars in search for fulfilment. The listener, like the central character of the album, finds only desperation and frustration, an intended conclusion perhaps but not expected, based on the promise of a great night out. A vibrant scene is vehemently deconstructed in fifteen tracks.
But Moby has always been an outcast and his music reflects this constant disassociation with the real world. This ideology is at its most striking with the glorious Hotel, blatantly dismissed by Pitchfork (the review predictably and inanely uses the word ’bald’ in the first line - yeah we know) and many other music magazines as vacuous attention seeking and an attempt to revisit Play and 18, arguably Moby’s most critically acclaimed albums. But even though Wait For Me feels more like going over old ground, it is in a good way.
The core of Wait For Me is four solid songs: the deep south crooning and alien shimmer of Walk With Me featuring Leela James on vocals, upbeat electro-guitar pop Mistake (the only time Moby sings), and the gorgeous Jltf (preceded oddly by the shorter Jltf-1) with vocals by Melody Zimmer. Last is the title track, all piano loop, sad strings and the excellent Kelli Scarr doing a passable impression of Sinéad O’Connor on Massive Attack’s 100th Window. The contributions from ’guest’ vocalists is superb throughout with only the subtle arrangements of Hope Is Gone spoiled by the overpowering Hilary Gardner.
Within this is a wealth of wonderful instrumentals, from the Mogwai-esque Shot In The Back Of The Head (video by the aforementioned David Lynch) to the piano and string duel of closer Isolate. Only the tiny Stock Radio is a pointless minute of buzzing nothingness. A Seated Night is part choir, part church organ, and opener Division is a great intro of simple strings. Slow Light is also impressive; building after a steady start and then filling out to form part of a dreamy conclusion.
Wait For Me proves that Moby still has much to offer. Look past the man and you will find a soul still trying things, old and new. The album is a bit of both, doing what has worked before just as well, and doing what usually doesn’t much better. The low-fi approach contradicts the huge aspirations which threatens to drag down the atmosphere but Wait For Me is not just a diluted Play. It is exactly what critics of Moby least expected - a collection of songs free of pretension, arrogant self-promotion and introversion. A beautiful example of an expert at work.