It is business as usual for Moby on new album Innocents - a huge record featuring familiar rhythms and textures, guest vocalists and plenty of quality. The man is a tour-de-force musically and can never be underestimated. The wonderful Everything That Rises kicks off the album, like a cross between Extreme Ways and God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters - a cinematic master-class of composition, arrangement and control. The is followed by first single A Case For Shame, with beautiful piano, strings and stunning vocals from Cold Specks and Inyang Bassey. This reminds us of the majesty of Play and 18, Moby fusing contrasts and genres into his own string-laden electronic world. To complete the impressive opening trio, Almost Home with Damien Jurado is also wonderful, an elegant angelic vocal over (more) strings.
Innocents unfolds uneasily from here. Going Home is a piano-led instrumental (with, not surprisingly, added string arrangement). To the unbelievers, this seems like parts of a Moby album that he can churn out in his sleep - this may be true, but he is that good. The Perfect Life, with Wayne Coyne, and a choir that The Polyphonic Spree would be ashamed of, should work but the faltering vocal duet of Moby/Coyne is not the easiest listen. This gets in the way of the stern, relevant, social-political message of damaged youth, drugs and broken homes. Sublime guitar, and choral vocals is a much-needed organic break from the electronics, even if it gets carried away at the end.
At the centre of Innocents, The Last Day is the album highlight; the combination of samples and Skylar Grey's beautiful lyrics, with a gliding atmospheric musical landscape, is breathtaking. Inyang Bassey provides the sass for the funk-stomp of Don't Love Me, and Cold Specks is back for the completely different Tell Me. A late introduction of Mark Lanegan, and his sultry baritone on The Lonely Night is another welcome addition but it is Moby with the last words on Dogs, the intriguing nine-minute closer. He is in thoughtful, reflective mood. 'This is how we tried, this is where it died...This is how we cried, like the dogs left outside' may not read like the most inspiring lyrics but Moby makes it work. A song of two halves, the second drifts into stark electronic ambience...
Innocents is the closest to Play or 18 than anything else Moby has made in recent years. At well over an hour, the album has time to flow and build. The guests all play their part and don't disappoint with Damien Jurado and Mark Lanegan delivering in completely different ways, and Cold Specks and Inyang Bassey adding the exquisite female touch. They all help Moby lift his own talents to produce more brilliance. This is Moby's best album since 2009's Wait For Me; it is consistent, focused and plays to his strengths as one of the best composers of electronic music in he world today.