One of the fascinating and enduring qualities about Moby is his role as a musical chameleon. On the one side sit his meditative compositions. Earlier this year he released free downloads of Long Ambients1, around four hours of music that accompany his yoga sessions. These broad sweeps and bare lines of music prove cathartic and soothing.
On the other side sit occasional but frenetic bursts of nervous energy. These can be traced through his career back to 1000, the 1993 track set at that number of beats per minute, and continued through some of the schizophrenic album Everything Is Wrong, in particular the song All I Need Is To Be Loved, before peaking with the 1996 album Animal Rights, a nadir in Moby’s personal life.
Two decades on, Moby revisits this sound. Now in his early 50s, he may have a more relaxed take on life from day to day, but the fire clearly still burns on These Systems Are Falling, where he is joined by a mass throng of voices he has chosen to call The Void Pacific Choir.
The stimulus retains a common theme from albums past – a concern for the climate and environment in which we live, not to mention fears for a home country bristling with tension as the presidential election approaches. Moby has been vocal in his opposition of Donald Trump and everything he stands for, and an outright hatred courses through much of this album without a direct naming of names.
He is not just restricted to America either. As with all his albums, These Systems Are Falling comes with a brief but hard hitting written piece on the state of the world, concluding with three short, stark sentences. “These systems are falling. Let them fail. Change or die.”
The music is far from lifeless and resigned, for Moby flips the switch and comes out sparring, guard up, ready for the fight. Hey hey and break. doubt are two punchy compositions setting out the stall, and the multitracked choir – who sound suspiciously like Moby himself – are evident through shouting rather than singing, all their words in upper case. The percussion is heavily processed but hits hard and the guitars, also extensively produced, shred through the sound picture.
As often with Moby there is a sense of emotional detachment in the vocals, and the constant tension between his shouty, punk-influenced side and the introverted, small voice of his ambient compositions remains. Don’t Leave Me is a great illustration of this, a scratched-up beat with a bit of hip hop backing the album’s first proper chorus. In the end neither wins outright, but this track serves the album as an illustration of the unsettling times in which we live.
Erupt & Matter is the pure angry music of a second youth, turning back towards 1994. It becomes too full-on after a while, as does The Light Is Clear In My Eyes, but this is also the place where Are You Lost In The World Like Me? finds itself. These rants are almost devoid of melody but that seems to be the point, railing at the state of the world at a volume and pace that cannot be ignored.
With endearing modesty, Moby has already said he doesn’t expect anybody to buy this album. Yet it’s likely it will shift a few units due to its high energy and low filler count, though the shouting does get wearing near the end. Once again he has confounded expectations, and the result is an album fiercely relevant to its time.