Album Reviews

Moby – Always Centered At Night

(Always Centered At Night) UK release date: 14 June 2024

Following last year’s Resound NYC, a record that saw a whole host of collaborators show up to re-record some of his old songs, this time around all the songs are brand new

Moby - Always Centred At Night Despite having a career that spans 35 years and over 20 studio albums, Moby (aka Richard Melville) has always seemed wedded to a particular time – that time being the early 2000s, when Play ruled the musical roost. Thanks to a licensing agreement, every track from Play became a staple of TV advertising and soundtracks, and it’s easy to argue that the album has become one of the most influential of modern times.

The problem is that, in the 25 years since Play’s release, Moby’s not really moved forward. There’s been a succession of respectably selling albums, but nothing that’s really surfed the cultural zeitgeist. That’s not to say that Melville has stood still creatively – over the last few years, he’s written memoirs (and a vegan cookbook), released a number of ambient albums, and two years ago, set up his own record label, intended to promote new singers who may not have an outlet for their music.

That label is called Always Centered At Night, which is also the title of Moby’s 22nd studio album. It feels very much a follow-up to last year’s Resound NYC, a record that saw a whole host of collaborators team up with Moby to re-record some of his old songs. But this time around, all the songs are brand new.

The list of guest vocalists are somewhat less starry this time around too. While Resound NYC featured the likes of Gregory Porter, Damien Jurado and the Kaiser Chiefs‘ Ricky Wilson, the most famous name on Always Centered At Night is probably the late dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah. Elsewhere, there are names like JP Bimeni, Lady Blackbird and Brie O’Banlon – all talented vocalists no doubt, but maybe not the household names that could tempt someone back to a Moby album.

As ever with Moby though, it’s beautifully produced, with an almost cinematic sheen to many of the tracks. You could easily imagine Dark Days, with the evocative vocals of Lady Blackboard, accompanying the credits of a dark, dystopian sci-fi film, while the orchestrations of We’re Going Wrong are stark and dramatic, contrasting nicely with Brie O’Banion’s understated vocals.

The only issue is that this is all very one-note. The one time that the record properly catches fire is on the Benjamin Zephaniah collaboration, Where Is Your Pride. Zephaniah spits righteous fury over Moby’s frantic beats – it’s an exhilarating combination, only tempered by the sad knowledge that we won’t be hearing anymore from the pairing due to Zephaniah’s sad death at the end of last year. It’s a hell of a swansong though.

On much of Always Centred At Night though, that fire is missing somewhat. The album is stuffed with mid-tempo mood pieces that never really go anywhere, and are mostly reminiscent of one of those ‘Ibiza Chill Out’ albums from the late ’90s, packed full of Zero 7 and the Sneaker Pimps. One of the exceptions is the furious Medusa – featuring Aynzli Jones, its a track with some filthy sounding synths that pays homage to the techno and house influences of his early career.

As with Medusa, the strongest moments of Always Centred At Night happen when Moby cuts loose a bit. Should Sleep is reminiscent of the glory days of Play, with JP Bimeni’s gospel-tinged vocals sounding particularly good, and Feelings Come Undone highlights Raquel Rodriguez‘s gorgeous voice, with a busy, beats-filled soundscape that sounds tailor made for watching the sun come down over Manhattan.

An hour’s running time does feel like a long time though, especially when many of the tracks sound quite interchangeable. There’s no doubt that tracks like Full Back and Sweet Moon make for nice background music, but after 60 minutes of songs that sound pretty similar, they seem a bit inessential. There are some good moments on Moby’s 22nd record, and he should be lauded for giving lesser known singers a spotlight. But Always Centered At Night seems unlikely to provoke a Moby revival.

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More on Moby
Moby – Always Centered At Night
Moby – Reprise
Moby – All Visible Objects
Moby – Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt
Moby & The Void Pacific Choir – These Systems Are Failing