Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

"Last Night"

07 April 2008, 11:30 Written by Ro Cemm
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moby_lastnightcover.jpg The career of Richard Melville Hall (known best as Moby, a tribute to his great, great, great, great uncle Herman, but also performing as DJ Cake, Barracuda, Lopez and UHF amongst others) is an interesting one. Starting as a punk in the early 80’s he moved on to techno and dance music in the early 90’s with the likes of ‘Go’, producing remixes galore along the way. By 1997 his work, though well respected, was becoming less and less commercially viable, and his label at the time declined to continue to release his records. Then someone lent him a copy of Alan Lomax’s field recordings, and in 1999 he relied heavily on samples from these releases on Play on new label Mute.It went on to sell over 9 million copies, more or less becoming the touch stone for the ‘chill out’ genre, the sound that spawned a thousand compilations, available in a wire basket at a service station near you now for £1. Offers came flooding in to use his music in adverts and, as we all know, Play became the first album to have every track used commercially, netting Moby an awful lot of money in the process, and leading many to question how a man with so many ‘right on’ beliefs (as an active vegan and an activist he has spoken out on behalf of PETA, MoveOn, and is avowedly Pro-Choice) could justify this action. After the success of Play, Moby all but turned his back on dance music with the downtempo 18 and Hotel, which seemed to be pleasant enough variations on the theme. The inevitable Best of followed in 2006, but surprisingly peaked at 23 in the UK Charts perhaps due to the sheer ubiquity of much of Play. In the two years since, it seems Moby has begun to take stock. Moby’s time away has obviously affected him. In 2007 he launched www.mobygratis.com, a website allowing independent and not-for-profit film makers to download much of his material (including unreleased material) to use in their productions for free. The man whose success was built on publicly available recordings effectively putting his material in the public domain for others to use to further their careers. He has also been returning to his old stamping ground- turning in a series of acclaimed DJ sets in New York, and by all accounts a storming session at this years SXSW. With Last Night Moby has clearly reengaged with his younger self, and with his home city.The album is built around a loose concept, with Moby claiming it to be a “love letter to dance music in New York City”, and an attempt to condense an entire night into 65 minutes. ‘Everyday it’s 1989’ does exactly what is says on the tin, all filtered high hats, diva vocals string string loops and major scale keyboard stabs, and ‘The Stars’ also follows this formula. Second single ‘Disco Lies’ update the formula slightly, coming on a bit more like Justice, but falling flat. In fact, it sounds much closer to something M People might have produced. Much better is lead off single ‘Alice’ with it’s dark brooding beats and hip hop courtesy of British MC Aynzli Jones, although it is perhaps a surprising choice of single. Last Night does contain several tracks that seem guaranteed to have chart success; the vocodered Casio-led ABBA-lite pop of ‘Ooh yeah’ and ‘Live Tomorrow’, which is most reminiscent of his Play era material being the two most likely candidates.However, it is the latter part of the album, the ‘comedown’ from the night before, if you will, that really made me sit up and take notice. The likes of ‘Degenerates’ with its string swells and ‘Sweet Apocalypse’ call to mind Eno’s work with Bowie on Low, albeit an updated version informed by house music, or even the work of Massive Attack string arranger and film scorer Craig Armstrong. The jazzy croon over the sparse backing of a distant organ and hissing snare could be an out-take from Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack to ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’. The album closes with a bonus track of broken piano and muted horn playing mournfully as the rain falls on the concrete and cars roll post. It seems Moby couldn’t resist a little homage to the jazz traditions of his beloved city.Last Night must certainly go down as a return to form for Moby, and provides a little something for anyone who has ever followed him at any stage of his career. While the more commercial material here doesn’t really do it for me personally, the later part of the album is certainly worth investigating. 68%Links Moby [official site] [myspace]You can steam the entire album over at Moby's myspace page
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