Moby releases sample-free album

Michael Ford
Managing Editor

   Although most people consider Moby a techno artist, his last couple of albums dabbled in virtually every genre imaginable, while featuring a galore of sampling. “Hotel,” his fifth studio album, continues the artist’s chaotic, unpredictable style with only one exception – no sampling.

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   Moby began his career – which many consider one of the strangest of any musician – as an underground techno artist in the early ‘90s. With hard-techno dance records like “The Story So Far” and “Early Underground,” he soon found himself atop a genre, albeit a relatively unpopular one. In 1999, when Moby’s future seemed bleak after the huge disappointment of “Animal Rights,” he released “Play,” an album chock-full of gospel and blues samples mixed with edgy techno and ambient beats. The release sold well over 10 million copies worldwide and solidified Moby as a serious musician.

   Only traces of “Play” can be found on “Hotel,” as the album sounds like a completely different animal. Whereas Moby only provided vocals on a couple of tracks on his 1999 release, “Hotel” features his chops on a whopping nine tracks, a risky move considering his obvious limitations. Despite sounding somewhat weak and frail at times, Moby pulled off the singing quite nicely, partially due to excellent music and backup vocals that make up for his shortcomings.

   “Hotel” opens with a short, sleek ambient track aptly titled “Hotel Intro,” which recalls the sound of his earlier days. After that, though, “Raining Again” plunges listeners into four consecutive tracks that all flaunt sounds akin to his earlier hit “We Are All Made Of Stars,” which means, yes, they all sound as radio-ready as ever. The fifth track, “Where You End,” clearly highlights the sound of the album and exceeds everything else in quality.

   As for duets, forget about Gwen Stefani, as Laura Dawn steps in as the prominent female voice on the album. Dawn, the cultural director for the politically leftist group MoveOn.org and a close friend, provides lead and/or backup vocals on a total of seven tracks including two duets with Moby – “Dream About Me” and “I Like It” – two of the strongest tracks on the record. Dawn also sings lead on the New Order cover “Temptation” and on “Very,” the only real dance track.

   While the album opens with a collage of upbeat single-prone tracks, it ends with four low-key, somewhat ambient tracks that could best be classified as chill-out music. The highlight of this cluster, “Love Should,” thrives on excellent piano work and beautiful background music. Though “Slipping Away” and “Forever” can be considered vintage Moby, some may find the lyrics trite and unimaginable. The last track, “Homeward Angel,” sounds like a continuation of the opening track and ends the album in extended ambient fashion.

   Those yearning for Moby’s days of ambient bliss will be pleased with “Hotel,” as it comes bundled with a bonus disc of nothing but pure ambient pieces. Most of them sound identical and come off as nothing more than doodling, although “Blue Paper” may catch a few ears. Regardless, a bonus like this at the price of regular admission only raises the quality of the already deluxe packaging.

    “Hotel” strays from the sound and style that catapulted Moby into super stardom, but not so far that it alienates his base. Though fans and new listeners alike may need to adapt and adjust before being able to appreciate the album, everyone should find something to their liking, due to its length and variety. When you see this “Hotel,” make reservations.

Grade: A-

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The Voice, 2005
Revised 050325 — http://www.uamont.edu/Organizations/TheVoice/2_16/music.htm