“Sorry if this seems self-evident, but for me the main purpose of music is to communicate emotion, to share some aspect of the human condition to whomever might be listening. I long for the simplicity and vulnerability you can get with acoustic or classical music” – Moby
You can only imagine the amazement of many fans at the announcement that Moby would release a new album, Reprise, revisiting some of his greatest hits with new arrangements for orchestra and acoustic instruments.
However, this feeling is not even comparable to what some classical music lovers probably felt, when they read the news that the album would be released by Deutsche Grammophon, the record label founded in 1898 by Eril Berliner – inventor of the gramophone and phonograph record – and his brother Joseph.
“Why Deutsche Grammophon decided to release an album by Moby” is by no means the right question to ask. The correct question is: “Why not?”
After all, Deutsche Grammophon is also the same record label which released Mixing Colors, the recording debut of Brian and Roger Eno, in 2020.
The release of this particular album means that Deutsche Grammophon is an absolutely avant-garde record label, constantly looking for novelty.
Reprise will be released together with the docufilm MOBY DOC and this is fundamental, because the album and the documentary are strictly connected. These are two equal and opposite representations of an artist – defined as “one of the most innovative figures in electronic music” – who has lived many lives, who has fallen, but has always succeeded to rise up.
The album and the documentary are the two ways Moby has used to open up to his fans, maybe for the first time ever.
Reprise is not a simple “greatest hits” but it is a real reflection on how art evolves and adapts to time and different contexts.
“For me the main purpose of music is to communicate emotions”. This is what Moby says.
Having the opportunity to listen to this album before its release, without any kind of external influence or comment, was fundamental.
The album is a whirlwind of emotions. Moby has revisited each song with extreme care, to adapt it to what is his vision on music and art.
The album includes 14 of his greatest hits. It is the Budapest Art Orchestra to accompany Moby on this “emotional journey”, together with various artists, some of them already well known, others much less. All of them, however, belong to completely different music genres.
Throughout his career, Moby has always looked for collaborations with innovative artists, even very young and often not “mainstream”.
So who are these artists? Jim James for “Porcelain”, Mark Lanegan and Kris Kristofferson together for “The Lonely Night”, the Icelandic pianist, Víkingur Ólafsson in “God Moving Over The Face Of Waters”, Mindy Jones, songwriter and Moby’s collaborator, Apollo Jane in “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad ”. And again, Novo Amor, Alice Skye, Luna Li, to close with Skylar Grey and Darlingside in “The Last Day”.
“Natural Blues”, a song taken from his incredible album Play, in its original version included a sample of Vera Hall’s song “Trouble So Hard”. In the “Reprise Version”, Moby relies on the voices of Gregory Porter who certainly needs no introduction and Amythyst Kiah, a young artist from Tennessee, known for being one of the four members of the folk/blues supergroup Our Native Daughters . Her song “Black Myself” also received a Grammy nomination for “Best American Root Song”. “Natural Blues (Reprise Version)” is truly a “global” song, as Amythyst’s vocals were recorded in Los Angeles, Gregory Porter recorded in New York City, Moby recorded acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, keyboards and piano at EastWest Studios in Los Angeles (yes, the same studios where The Beach Boys recorded “Pet Sounds”!). Then, the entire production moved to Prague to record the orchestra, while the voices of the gospel choir were recorded one by one and separately in Moby’s home studio, because of the lockdown.
“Go”, his first success, the song that made him a worldwide star, holds a completely different flavor, thanks to the strings and to the percussions played by Alex Acuña, former member of Weather Report and an artist who collaborated with Elvis Presley, Joni Mitchell, John Mayall, Neil Diamond, Donna Summer, Ella Fitzgerald and many others.
“In addition to creating ‘Reprise’ over the last 4 years I’ve also been working on ‘MOBY DOC’, a unique and idiosyncratic film about my life, my activism, and my music.
One of the goals in making ‘MOBY DOC’ was to try and make an honest and unconventional music documentary unlike any other music documentary. and, presumptuously, I think we succeeded.” – Moby
MOBY DOC opens with a question: “Why did I want a documentary about me?” “Legitimate question”, Moby says.
The answer is the desire to create an honest and unconventional documentary.
Each chapter is represented by a decade.
It starts with the story of his childhood. Moby grew up in a very poor family where his parents constantly fought and screamed. Then, during his teenage years, he discovered music.
There is the story of the moments in which he was so poor to be forced to live in an abandoned factory, and the story of how he achieved success and wealth. But then, addiction to alcohol and drugs came along with fame.
There is one aspect that is particularly striking. Although it’s Moby himself to tell the story of his life, full of successes but also defined by difficult moments, panic attacks, addictions and even suicidal tendencies, the feeling is often to face a totally detached narrative. It seems like Moby is telling the story of another person.
There are some really touching passages: those where he talks about his love for animals and how this – together with music – has literally saved and changed his life.
Animals have always been a constant presence in his life and his only companions during his childhood. Then, as the years go by, he discovered something very important to him: “Animals are good, humans are scary.”
Reprise and MOBY DOC are both defined by a strong emotional impact.
Moby is a musician, songwriter, producer, writer and activist. He has been a convinced vegan for thirty years as well as being a supporter of animal rights – you can easily understand this also from his tattoos – and humanitarian aid.
He strongly believes that the purpose of art is to communicate emotions.
“I know that probably this sounds like an overstatement but music saved me. (…) I was able to take all the things I was feeling and make sense of them. Take the fear and make it interesting, and take my confusion and try to make it beautiful. The act of making music was almost like an act of self-healing, but also in a way that maybe other people could relate to or understand.” – Moby
This is music, this is art, this is emotion and yes, ladies and gentlemen, all of this is Moby.
02 Natural Blues – feat Gregory Porter & Amythyst Kiah
04 Porcelain – feat Jim James
05 Extreme Ways
06 Heroes feat. Mindy Jones
07 God Moving Over The Face Of Waters – feat Víkingur Ólafsson
08 Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? – feat Dietrick Haddon & Apollo Jane
09 The Lonely Night – feat Kris Kristofferson & Mark Lanegan
10 We Are All Made Of Stars
11 Lift Me Up
12 The Great Escape feat Nataly Dawn, Alice Skye & Luna Li
13 Almost Home feat Novo Amor, Mindy Jones & Darlingside
14 The Last Day – feat Skylar Grey & Darlingside