One of the intriguing things about Moby used to be that you never knew what he would come up with next. From Twin Peaks-sampling rave anthem Go to the calm minimalism of his Ambient collection, from the exuberant variety of Everything Is Wrong to the thrashing rock strains of commercial flop Animal Rights and on to the multi-million selling, ubiquitous downtempo hit that was Play, he always seemed to be moving the musical goalposts.
Success seemed to have brought Moby into some kind of creative comfort zone, however. It was as if he’d discovered a formula with the electro blues and gospel samples of Play, stuck with it on 18 then varied the theme slightly with the more song-driven approach of last offering, Hotel. Perhaps that phase is now over though as Last Night, his sixth studio album, is largely uptempo and sees the New Yorker wilfully striking out into different genres.
Last Night wears its heart on its sleeve, sometimes to ecstatic or moving effect and at others so blatantly it’s almost cringeworthy. Some tracks touch upon old territory, like the buzzing, piano-led techno stand-out The Stars and I Love To Move In Here, which are trademark Moby creations that he could have easily released over 10 years ago.
You get the feeling this re-creation of the rave vibe is intentional though, especially when vocal bursts like, “old school taking you back”, crop up. Grandmaster Caz may have been responsible for co-writing hip hop anthem Rapper’s Delight but his rap on I Love To Move In Here does little to add to what is otherwise a fantastic, understated dance track with its hypnotic piano hook and seductive vocal sample. A far more effective rap is offered by Aynzil and the 419 Squad on moody lead single Alice, incidentally one of only a couple of tracks that feature Moby on vocals.
The musical variety on show is very much the album’s strength. Hyenas is a sublime slab of drifting downtempo warmth, with French and English vocals intermingling, I’m In Love is a Donna Summer-styled electro-disco anthem while Disco Lies provides a driving, diva-led burst of dancefloor energy. Meanwhile, the warm ambience of Degenerates, tribal trance-inducer, Sweet Apocalypse, and gentle balladry of the title track counterbalance the amphetamine-rush of much of the rest of the album.
Last Night is more of a natural successor to 1995’s Everything Is Wrong than what followed with its rave influences and mix of different styles and genres. The piano breakdowns, euphoric vocal samples and Moby’s trademark orchestral strings aren’t just subtle nods towards the white-gloved excesses of the late ’80s and early ’90s, the influence is explicit. Naming a track Everyday It’s 1989 says it all. This is not necessarily a bad thing though – especially if you’re an old raver – and is offset by the forward-thinking dance music and rich electronica that surround it.
If you’re one of those people that rued the day Moby stopped producing storming, hook-heavy dance music then you’ll welcome Last Night with open arms, if you’re looking for another Play or 18 then you’ll be sorely disappointed. Overall this is an unpretentious and varied album of rave stompers, hands-up disco and sedate moments of beguiling ambience that combine to form probably his best and most cohesive album since Play. This is the sound of Moby moving forwards while taking the occasional, lingering look over his shoulder.