Moby – always centered at night

An enriching record packed with surprises...

Moby’s colossal success – more than 20 million records sold over a 35 year career – has perhaps led to a few disingenuous portraits over the years. The ubiquity of his 1999 album ‘Play’ dominates his catalogue, but in truth there’s always been much more to him than meets the eye. A techno populist who worked with Britney Spears, Moby’s ear for collaboration feels refreshingly ego-free, allowing talents around him to blossom. ‘always centered at night’ leans in on this, with Moby acting as a fulcrum for a veritable galaxy of collaborators, resulting in an enriching, and surprising full length.

Fans of Moby will instantly recognise some of the signifiers here – the electronics are refulgent, the tones crisp, the melodies frosty. It’s a sign of his breadth, however, that he can move from opaque R&B to dub poetry without catching breath. Opener ‘on air’ sets the tone, with painterly electronics and divine vocals from CLASH cover star serpentwithfeet. Lady Blackbird fires up ‘dark days’, her rebellious vocal steeped in gospel tones. ‘where is your pride?’ – featuring the late, great Benjamin Zephaniah – is that rare thing, a breakbeat-charged vegan call to arms that works as an excellent, engaging piece of music.

It’s a record replete with highlights. India Carney is on fine form amongst the jazzy tones of ‘precious mind’, the gorgeous delivery by Raquel Rodriguez shadows ‘feelings come undone’ with rivulets of emotion.

Structured like a series of short stories, ‘always centered at night’ achieves unity through recurring techniques, the songs allowed to stand apart, yet always in conversation. ‘we’re going wrong’ is an exercise in space, with Brie O’Banion countering this with the melody; the gilded finale ‘ache’ balances the classic-leaning Moby arrangement with a dulcet vocal from Jose James, all smokey jazz clubs and that other, hidden side of New York nightlife.

Moby has latterly focussed on orchestral arrangements of his previous highs, notably last year’s ‘Resound NYC’. This new album finds the producer gazing once more to the future, grappling with new ideas. Not quite unshackling himself from the past, ‘always centered at night’ is a rewarding experience which will do much to push back unjust preconceptions.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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