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The great iconoclast of techno returns with a smooth, sacred, and exhilarating record. Play's concoction of breakbeat rhythms, ambient mixology, and inspired blues and gospel samples cry out across musical genres and histories, imparting a time-tested wisdom to beat-driven ears. Moby's devout faith--in both God and his own musical whims--give this approach a sort of legitimacy that another, less sincere artist would never have. That sincerity reverberates through the beats and instrumental eclecticism like a pulse. The soulful refrains and proclamations in "Find My Baby" and "Natural Blues" somehow nestle between straight-up dance-floor rave-ups ("Bodyrock") and melt-in-your-mouth ambience ("Inside") with an effortless grace. Moby reaches across his turntables and finds something pure--almost organic. In fact, the album feels more natural than techno is ever supposed to feel, more spiritual than what DJs are supposed to be able to muster, and more alive than it has any right to be. --Matthew Cooke
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If "Everything is wrong" was desperate and frantic, with some slightly pompous themes ("Hymn", "Anthem"), this is instead more resigned and calm. The closing point of the album, "My weakness", is maybe the highest. It's repetitive at first, but its progression is that of a prayer, or rather of an invocation, and the result is a mysterious, affecting melody that will stay with you for a long time.
Play's liner notes contain Moby's views on Fundamentalism, prisons and crime, his Vegan diet, the holocaust, and non-Pacificist Christians. He also lists a number of quotes from world religious leaders about animals. He adds, "These essays are not really related to the music, so if you hate the essays, you might still like the music, and if you like the essays you might hate the music. Who knows, maybe by some bizarre twist of fate you'll like them both." Moby's views on animals as food may not pertain to the tracks on Play, but there is no doubt that his spiritual orientation does pertain. Composed of Philip Glass-like minimalist melodies and samples from Hip-Hop artists, old Blues and Gospel songs, Play employs the materialist-spawned tools of what Walter Benjamin called the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in order to engage our digitized souls in a sustained self-examination.
Play begins with "Honey" (sampled from Bessie Jones' "Sometime") which leads into "Find my Baby" (Boy Blue's "Joe Lee's Rock"). Both songs have some heavy synthesizer overlays that establish one of the album's motifs along with a theme of loss and longing for the return of a lover. "Porcelain," an intimate confession of dreams of death and jealousy, a song of farewell and regret (vocals by Moby), opens with the heavy synth, acquires a slow beat, and finally a piano melody tripping out note by note that re-emerges in many of the later tracks. "Why does my heart feel so bad?" (Shining Light Gospel Choir) asks that question again and again, the contemporary equivalent of a liturgical recitative. "Southside," words and vocals by Moby, describes a dark day and night marked by endless cycles of routine: artificial light, rain, television, driving across town packing weapons, and picking up friends. "Rushing" begins slowly and returns to the piano of "Porcelain," picking up tempo and arriving at a rushing-stream, Glass-like melody somewhat reminiscent of Moby's "God Moving over the Face of the Waters" and the dramatic fourteenth track, "Everloving." "Bodyrock" loops fast-paced samples of Bobby Robinson's "Love Rap" (performed by Spoony G and the Treacherous 3). "Natural blues" is based on samples from Vera Hall's pleading "Trouble So Hard" where the major question is "Don't nobody know my troubles but God?" In the eleventh track, "Run on" (samples from "Run on for a Long Time" by Bill Landford and The Landfordaires), Moby levels the gospel guns at us. You can "run for a long time," but "God Almighty is gonna cut you down" if you don't help your fellow man or if you "go to church just to signify," among other things. "If things were perfect" is a spoken word piece where Moby meditates on a cold, empty city at night, wishing for summer. The next three tracks-"Everloving," "Inside," and "Guitar flute and string"-are instrumental. Another spoken-word track, "The sky is broken," observes the morning after a storm, acting as a reprise to the confessional "Porcelain."
the entire album!