Since he put New York on the techno map with the seminal 1990 trance track “Go,” Moby has gone on to become a decent punk rocker, a virtuous ambient doodler and an even better soundtrack composer. But his calling remains convention-twisting, explosively emotive dance music. With Play, electronica’s outspoken icon bounces back to make the true successor to his club-centered 1995 landmark, Everything Is Wrong.
Whereas that album focused on booming, four-to-the-floor tech pop, Play embraces both hip-hop syncopations and Alan Lomax’s field recordings of early-twentieth-century African-American folk music to create time-traveling beatbox hymns. “Honey” features Bessie Jones’ bluesy vamp over plunking piano and shuffling funk. “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?” showcases anguished gospel cries on a stage of glowing synths, while “Bodyrock” simultaneously suggests Fatboy Slim and Joy Division. Moby sing-speaks, plays innumerable instruments and crafts complex soulful harmonies out of simple, alienated elements. The ebb and flow of eighteen concise, contrasting cuts writes a story about Moby’s beautifully conflicted interior world while giving the outside planet beats and tunes on which to groove. Read it with your heart and hips.