Sometimes, phenomenal pop success can leave an artist crippled with creative paralysis, striving in vain to match or top that commercial peak; witness Michael Jackson after "Thriller." Moby's sixth studio album wasn't quite at that level--"Play" (1999) sold a mere 10 million copies worldwide--and the three discs he released afterwards were nowhere near the spectacular failures of "HIStory" or "Invincible." But the electronic musician once dubbed "the face of techno" has struggled nonetheless for the last decade, over-emphasizing his weaknesses (primarily his monotone singing) at the expense of his strengths (gorgeous, melancholy instrumentals adorned with perfectly chosen samples).
A newly independent Moby reconnected with his roots on the dance floor and the spark of his 1992 breakthrough "Go" on his last release, "Last Night" (2008), and now, with the new "Wait for Me," he's finally made another album that recaptures the unique emotions of "Play," if not the then-startling invention. This is to say that as the languid, echoing, strings- and piano-laden tracks of his newest leisurely unfold in the Sunday-morning chill-out vibe after a sweaty night of ecstasy, he doesn't reveal any new tricks as a songwriter or a producer. But nobody does this sound better.
Moby has credited a chat with director David Lynch, who helmed the video for the new single "Shot in the Back of the Head," with the inspiration here, which is fitting, since the signature sample in "Go" came from Angelo Badalamenti's "Laura Palmer's Theme." Moby himself only sings on only one song, otherwise recruiting female vocalists--Leela James, who's heard on the title track, is one of the best, as well as the biggest name--staying strictly instrumental, or relying on evocative samples (my favorite is the soulful, bluesy chant of "The battle will be over"") that hint at hidden mysteries to keep us pondering and listening again and again.