How do you conceive of the contemporary dance world without Moby? The truth is, you can't. Despite the efforts of the rock-ist music critic monolith, Clear Channel and its ilk, and MTV, dance music is alive and kicking, and Richard Melville Hall is its current face.
Producers aren't willing to let singers be artists, DJs become 'superstars' while engaging in the same phenomenon as rap artists whose acquisition of status symbols and bling make them all look the same, and Diddy (PKA Puff Daddy, not the guy who did those effervescent Blondie remixes in the mid-90s) claims, in public, to have invented the remix. What the fuck?
Thankfully, there is a voice of reason, and political thought/action- a voice that can make the occasional rock record (Animal Rights) but still bust out a high-BPM hands-in-the-air floorshaker whenever so inclined. That Moby has become an icon while still remaining true to his own vision of what stardom should be is refreshing, but also necessary. Who else embodies what dance music stands for these days? Of course, the subtextual question to be asked is whether dance music does stand for anything these days. But Moby, at least for the time being, brings with him some principles to the genre, which is certainly beneficial.
His newest compilation, Go: The Very Best of Moby (V2-US), is an overwhelming piece of work. When initially assigned this disc for review, I hesitated- there have already been Songs (which covered material recorded for Elektra Entertainment from 1993-1998), I Like To Score (which was devoted to his film scores), Rare (which gathered
But this set achieves a remarkable feat- everything feels as it should. The world that this material evokes is prettier, more majestic than the one we live in. Tracks like "Natural Blues" and "In My Heart" inject the spiritual into the world of the machine, and the end result is like sacred music for robots, which is incredibly cool. During the course of writing this review, I got introduced to the Brian Eno/David Byrne collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which is essential listening for anyone interested in the benevolent collisions of voices, cultures, musics, and machines. It set the stage for the styles that Moby has perfected over the past few years, creating soundspaces where disco, rave, new age, new wave, and ambient can all play nice together.
Of the new tracks, there's a Trentemoller 2006 version of "Go," which is fine but unnecessary (except for the purposes of copyright). "New York New York," recorded with Debbie Harry, is delightful commercial pop, and it is joy to hear Harry's voice surrounded by such a delicious electro confection. A live version of the Elektra sorta-hit "Feeling So Real" replicates the excitement of the live rave experience, using preprogrammed loops and live performers to make something fascinating out of the whole experience.
"God Moving Over The Face of the Waters" remains one of Moby's best, and the version included on this compilation, thankfully, is the version used in the film (but not on the soundtrack) Heat, wherein the chord progression resolves itself- triumphantly. It exemplifies both the spiritual aspects and cinematic sensibility that defines his non-dancefloor-targeted work. But equally spiritual are the ways that many of Moby's works get rethought on Disc Two, the remix compilation.
It's a shame that only the radio edit of Ferry Corsten's mix of "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" gets used, because it is epic trance at its finest- the keyboards practically glisten, the chords like galactic phenomena as they reshape the fat waves that Corsten is putting out. Similarly brilliant (but tragically not included) is Corsten's mix of "In My Heart." Of all the big name trance DJs who take turns at tracks on Disc Two, it is Corsten who seems best to understand what makes Moby's stuff work.
"Raining Again," remixed by Steve Angello, is just exquisite, and Axwell's mix of "Slipping Away" is similarly lovely and effective, versatile for big room house music venues and intimate college dorm stereo sessions. "Natural Blues" is presented in its Perfecto Dub form rather than the more familiar Perfecto Mix, though there are some vocals present throughout. But it's so nice to remember when Paul Oakenfold made actual trance records rather than big beat foolishness. That's his thing, and if he's happy and spreading the word, good for him. But the Perfecto versions of "Natural Blues" are spectacular mixes, and having them on the disc is a nice plus.
The best surprise for me on the whole compilation is the Pete Heller Dub of "Southside," which is a delirious house track with acid accents that can't be denied- it's the kind of acid house rebirth that bodes well for genre pollination and asses everywhere, because, and I promise you this, it makes you move.
Hardcore fans may have a lot of this, but I can't think of a better encapsulation of Moby's music (Granted, there are pieces from the Instinct and Elektra years that would be essential for a truly complete collection- I'm thinking "Hymn," "Move (Disco Threat)," "Help Me To Believe," "Next is the E," and "That's When I Reach For My Revolver (The Moby Remix)," but that's just me). Disc Two makes the package appealing to real dance enthusiasts with its impeccably mastered remix assortment, and the whole collection is a nice snapshot of what dance artists can accomplish with perspective and ambition.