Live Ambient Improvised Recordings, Vol. 1
Maybe Moby is the musician I’ve had the longest love/hate affair with – when Play was released I loved it. It was then ubiquitous, I still loved it for a while then decided it was not for me – but I really loved Play: The B-Sides. And since then – and we’re talking over 20 years now – it’s been back and forth. An album will pull me in, I’ll go back through his catalogue and decide there are gems, then an album will be released and I’ll think that he’s a shifty hack and his lazy approximation of electronica and perfunctory post-punk songwriting is flimsy as all shit. And I’m out!
And then, recently I revisited Play and loved it for what it is – catchy melodies, deceptive, inventive, a man desperate to make it after flailing in obscurity. It was his final push before giving up and it went gangbusters and made him a millionaire, a pop star and of course could not buy him a single drop of happiness.
The Moby story is fascinating. Most recently he cancelled himself with some dumb comments that were pervy and creepy and not just wrong morally but also wouldn’t stand up in a court because they were weird lies. So that was Moby for a while. And then on top of that, he made a really shit album. So I was back out again, lol!
But, somewhere in the last five years or so Moby sidelined with these long ambient playlists – the first was released in 2016 and then a follow-up a couple of years later. I spent a lot of time with these, particularly the first volume; four hours of low-key synth squelch that made a waking-sleep calm playlist for relaxation and contemplation. And I’m no hippie. But I love a bit of a calm. And I love ambient music. And Moby’s long ambient mixes, 30 minute beat-less chill pieces, were a tonic man. A fucking balm.
So of course I’m back in when I hear he’s back on the ambient buzz. And so, lol, and here we go around again on another trip of the love/hate Moby merry-go-round.
Live Ambient Improvised Recordings, Vol. 1 very clearly threatens to kick off a series. But, at this stage, I’m in. Because the work here is lovely. Simple, calming, easy to dig…and the clue really is in the title. In late 2020 Moby sat at his keyboards, piano, synth, alternating, and gave himself the maxim of creating in the moment – no composition apart from what was forming, no editing after, no alterations. Just create in the moment.
The result is ten sprawling but finite pieces – most of them around the 10 minute mark with a half-hour coda to finish. The touchstone, most obviously, in these cases is Brian Eno. More specifically, it’s Eno’s return to ambient in the 90s – The Shutov Assembly, for instance. Which is a period of Eno’s work I really love.
Moby’s opening brace offers gentle piano pieces, slowly cascading. Then it’s to more synthetic textures, all created in the moment as musical meditations; to help him with his anxiety, to contribute to a steady flow, to assist with sleeping, with yoga, with whatever practice is best in centering.
I’ve enjoyed this album as a sleep-drip, I’ve also particularly enjoyed it – the way I have with things by Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds and the like – as what I call my First Wake music. The coffee pot is on, the first photos of the day are being snapped for the Instagram, maybe a bowl of cereal beckons, the emails and chatter are starting to be sorted but you want something on that relaxes you as the day’s busy bustle gets going. Moby’s latest ambient records are perfect for this.
There you go. That’s the recommendation.
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