First Listen: Moby, 'Innocents'
The story of Moby's 11th album is one of collaboration: Innocents, his first full-length recording with an outside producer (Mark Stent, who's worked alongside virtually everyone in pop), finds the versatile multi-instrumentalist recruiting an impressive assortment of guest vocalists. Cold Specks' marvelous Al Spx lends soulful and vulnerable contributions to "A Case for Shame" and "Tell Me" — her voice's idiosyncratic beauty meshes perfectly with Moby's warm-but-dark sensibilities — while other songs bring in contributions from Damien Jurado, Skylar Grey, Mark Lanegan, The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne and others.
Moby isn't new to working with outside vocalists — when NPR Music brought him in to write and record a song in two days, we paired him up with Kelli Scarr — but Innocents is unusually generous in its abundance of prominent guests, especially men (a rarity for Moby). The result recalls an incomplete but sizable cross-section of the musician's many sounds, from Play-style appropriations of old spirituals ("A Long Time," "The Last Day") to gauzy ambient works ("Going Wrong") to gloomily atmospheric ballads like "The Lonely Night" (featuring Lanegan), with Innocents' title capturing its unifying theme.
As such, the album lacks the seamless cohesiveness of Moby classics like 1995's dreamily drifting Everything Is Wrong and 1999's sample-driven Play. But, more than 20 years after his breakthrough single — and more than 30 years into a try-it-all career that began in punk and has since worked its way through countless iterations of dance music — Innocents feels like the work of an artist who's been liberated to pursue beauty and emotion in as many forms as he can muster.