Moby gives his classics a dignified rework on new LP ‘Reprise’: Album Review
Moby is one of America’s most prominent electronic exports and an acclaimed author of deep and dramatic cuts. His talents as a producer, musician, songwriter and singer blossomed in the ’90s. ‘Play‘, released in 1999, is undoubtedly the album that encapsulates Moby’s soul and took his sound to every corner of the world. His discography is long and has continued long after that album, right up to the present day. However, fans will agree that it is on that LP that Moby keeps the gems.
Now, Moby shares a new album, ‘Reprise‘, which offers us a beautiful reflection on the artist and activist’s 30-year career. Moby reimagines his classics in a 14-piece surprise box, as a downtempo dessert made with Budapest Art Orchestra and a delicious and eclectic list of vocalists.
Moby dressed in a suit. This is the cover art of ‘Reprise’ and, if you like, it personifies the new clothes that the old favourites of the American artist get in this new album. Moby, the master of sample-soaked ambient electronic music, delivers a more organic and calmer version of his songs in ‘Reprise’. As if in a catharsis way, Moby shows us these classics in a more positive way, as if he had made peace with these tracks and with himself. The darkness and depth that connected so many fans to Moby’s discography are missing. That touching, levitating depression that Moby used to purge himself and that his followers consumed, as medicine for the soul it’s not there. It’s an album shrouded in nostalgia, which will certainly make you travel back to the first time you heard and felt these pearls from another decade. Classical, fortified, triumphant. This is ‘Reprise’, the new album from Moby that we now dare to discover.
Image Credit: ‘Reprise’ cover art
The album’s opening comes to us with a largely acoustic instrumental that unexpectedly sweeps you off your feet. Intensely cinematic, this breathtaking cut is totally dominated by string instruments. It’s almost impossible to control your breathing or your tears, such is the explosion of emotion. A vocal spared beginning, in preparation for what comes next.
Natural Blues (feat. Gregory Porter, Amythyst Kiah)
The first chords don’t let you foresee the strength of the propulsive drums that attack you next. Gregory Porter‘s voice comes from the depths of his resonance box to immediately embraces you in comfort that is then shaken when Amythyst Kiah‘s clear voice throws us to the ground. The pace is stirring, in an almost agonising rhythm as Gregory speaks to your heart. Warm, suburban, dense, fiery…. ‘Oh Lordy, my trouble’s so hard’, a heartfelt lament delivered in true gospel fashion.
The hand-drummed beat does the honours, in a tribal and well-seasoned track. It’s at this moment that Moby amplifies the heavy percussion with an organic rave tune. The intensity increases at an intriguing speed, exposing cinematographic suspense. Like a story, it develops in several moments, taking you on a sonic journey.
Porcelain (feat. Jim James)
This is undoubtedly a piece of Moby’s high cutlery and here, again, it deserved a particular finesse. All the instruments in the orchestra have done their part to enhance and condense the dramatic melody of this pearl. The keys provide the drama and Jim James‘ voice comes in an intimate duel with Mody, making it simply irresistible. Purists will miss the original samples, but the real strings manage to engage us intensely.
Taken from the 2002 album ’18’, ‘Extrema Ways‘ appears now as a folk-infused track, showing a heartfelt rendition of Moby. Like a private concert, we hear Moby quoting himself in the dramatic verses of this powerful song. Honeyed yet raw, it is painfully intense. The orchestra lends it a sound that echoes like a thunderstorm, giving a boost to the dramaturgy.
Heroes (feat. Mindy Jones)
Get your tissues ready if you’re emotional. Mindy Jones‘ heavenly voice comes to us like a messenger angel. Delicate, velvety and incredibly steady, the vocals are caressed by the strings and lifted by the wind instruments. This classic takes on biblical proportions in this new arrangement. It is a vulnerable reworking of his hero David Bowie’s version.
God Moving Over The Face Of The Water (feat. Vikingur Ólafsson)
This song seems to have been conceived to receive an orchestral arrangement, as it fits it like a glove. The fingers of the pianist Vikingur Ólafsson elevate the melody to a daydream state. Ethereal, eternal, magnificent, it is the perfect soundtrack for the best thoughts.
Image credit: Moby (press)
Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad (feat. Apollo Jane, Deitrick Haddon)
Slowed down and serene, this version swaps Moby’s synths for some delicious timpani. The reflection that the song invites is amplified by the soulful vocals of Apolo Jane and Deitrick Haddon, which leads you into a vortex of pain and tension until the incredible gospel choir rescues you into the light. While retaining the weight and suffering of the original, this version gives an abstractness that allows you to appreciate the darkness without allowing yourself to succumb to it.
The Lonely Night (feat. Mark Lanegan, Kris Kristofferson)
A duel of incredibly bass, rustic and harsh vocals. The music reflects the confessions of two fatigued men glimpsing their mortality. It is a track without gender, age or creed. The contrast between the raspy vocals with the divine strings is cut short with the guitar and a choir of angels.
We Are All Made Of Stars
This new version mixes hints of jazz with tinges of rock in what is perhaps one of the most intricate arrangements on this compilation. Moby and the choir sing the well-known lyrics, dressing them up in a new and refreshing tempo and cadence. Although hidden away on some of the other tracks, Moby shows himself awake and in the lead.
Lift Me Up
This dancefloor anthem has been completely deconstructed on ‘Reprise’. Less euphoric and more contemplative, it loses its techno-alike bliss to gain smoothness. It’s more flowing and melodic, inviting you to listen to this music in a totally different way. Stripped of noisy and harsh layers, the chorus is presented in a celebratory way by the fantastic gospel choir. The highly distorted looped vocals create an intense and magnanimous moment. It is one of the most marked transformations of this profound facelift of Moby’s classics.
The Great Escape (feat. Nataly Dawn, Alice Skye, Luna Li)
Acoustic love, from one end to the other. With the vocals of this stylish and eclectic cast leading the track, ‘The Great Escape‘ is highly understated and subtle like the songs you sing around the campfire.
Almost Home (feat. Mindy Jones, Darlingside, Novo Amor)
A song that fluctuates between folk and indie pop to take your breath away with a trio of vocals in perfect harmony. Moby joins the party to emphasize the speech while the rest of the choir sweeps you off your feet with high and celestial tones. The orchestra was present, embellishing every moment, but without a doubt, the voice was the featured instrument in this reinvented version.
The Last Day (feat. Skylar Grey, Darlingside)
Perhaps the album couldn’t end more dramatically. In a buoyant downtempo, Skylar Grey manages to present the intense lyrics of ‘The Last Day’ in a sweet and sensual way, until folk act Darlingside appear to overcrowd the melodramatic scene. It’s the perfect way to end this cinematic soundscape.
Moby has always delivered works drenched in emotion, but this time he’s given you his heart. ‘Reprise’ is a fantastic opportunity to replenish Moby’s stock and to listen to all these classics from a new perspective. Give it a go, you won’t regret it. Listen below to these 14 pieces reinterpreted with classical arrangements:
Image Credit: Moby (via Facebook)