All Visible Objects
MUTE / Little Idiot under exclusive license to Mute Artists Ltd for the USA, CA & MX
Moby has – perhaps almost bizarrely – been making records for over a quarter of a century now – with close to 20 solo records; his breakthrough (Play) became the ubiquitous TV/film/ad-soundtrack music right at the turn of millennia and prior that that a few club-hounds knew of his techno scrapings but he was, like David Gray, about to chuck the towel in before a last-ditch effort at tweaking his formula just enough set him up and off on a course of rinse and repeat.
Since then there have been a handful of Moby albums with a track or two of worth and one or two that really do offer something of a nice-surprise as a listening experience, but you never really care too much nor stick with them, just as he never sticks with the style or shtick long enough to make either stick. It never feels real. He’s a musical tourist, a vegan scenester hoping to write the right tune to get him noticed and/or laid. That’s how it’s always seemed and then he admitted that in a couple of memoirs – the second of which saw him effectively cancel himself by creeping on Natalie Portman and basically suggesting that his own binoculars and Lolita fetishisation was tantamount to “dating”. Next thing the book tour was off – and go home (alone) Moby!
In between memoirs there was a couple of albums of quite-nice ambient time-stretch music; yoga and granola soundtracks for 5am risers.
But the timing of this brand new album of songs and moods seems off. Not only is he a cancelled creep but he shut his vegan restaurant down amid the Covid quarantine and left all the workers unpaid and in the lurch. Word got around about that because word gets around very quickly these days. And there were tweets about the Millionaire boss not covering the staff with any health packet or unemployment or any sort of pivot-offer. Just a shut-up shop sign.
Granted, Moby the restaurateur and Moby the musician can be separate operations – but when shutting the doors on one you shouldn’t just open up and start trying to sell your new (old) wares. Not without clearing the debt. It’s tone-deaf at the very least.
And you’ll read many reviews that shit on Moby’s new album simply because he’s a Woody Allen figure. A guy you must hate and who possibly couldn’t be accused of doing anything clever or good – at least not any more.
But let’s hate his new album for the mediocre music instead. That’s far easier.
All Visible Objects is a reminder of Moby’s pre-Play techno and trance music and the post-Play refuge of pushing elements of that sound up against an ambient wash, as if re-arranging the musical furniture in his room without ever dusting or even stopping to open the curtains.
So you’ve heard this all before – even if you didn’t want to, or never quite realised it at the time. And though there are some moments where a rudimentary piano line is placed just correctly across a sampled vocal (My Only Love) and you can be forgiven for thinking it’s one of Play’s mighty fine b-sides it’s just two decades too late and far too obvious.
This is a projection but it’s almost as if Moby’s playing a get out of spiritual jail card by offering a cynical return-to-roots musical project; as if he thinks that he can just drop an album of the old stuff – he might as well have fished most of this out of the bedsit-studio’s garbage can – and parade it around as a Mea-culpa for being a no-pay balding paedo-creep.
If I can just get them to dance – and/or stare out the window as they sip their green tea – maybe they’ll forget…
And for every faux gospel-choir and softer version of a Trent Reznor piano voicing there’s the jarring big beat rise of a tired old oonst-oonst old-school techno flourish. Makes you feel like you got drunk on the juice of highlighters and ended up locked in the office at a dreaded school reunion.
The tone-deaf motif that is such a part of Moby’s world is very clear on the tired pulse of Power Is Taken, as D. H. Peligro of the Dead Kennedys rants about hating oppressing and fighting against oppressors. Power is not shared, it’s taken – apparently.
All very hard to take from a man that won’t pay his employees but will live another day to make more middling music, eh.
Also, I long for any return, in any form from dub-poet master Linton Kwesi Johnson. But hearing him here (Refuge) under soft wet-patches of synth-squelch is a disappointment. Moby better have fucking paid him!