Moby spoke recently about the 10th anniversary of his breakthrough album, Play, but fans excited to hear behind-the-scenes stories about epochal tracks like "South Side" or "Porcelain" were greeted with a shrug by the man who brought them into being. "They're all OK," he allowed, but they weren't his favorites. "The only songs I really like off Play," he confessed, "are the quiet instrumentals."
Wait for Me, his latest album, may not be beloved by those who adore Play's groundbreaking mixture of dance, rock, gospel and blues, but it's tempting to assume Moby himself prefers it on a spiritual level. With a few shimmering exceptions — such as the nervous electronica of "Shot in the Back of the Head" or the dreamy synth-pop of "Pale Horses" — Wait for Me is an album dominated by quiet (and quite lovely) instrumentals.
Stripped down and overpoweringly melancholy, Wait for Me feels like his Darkness on the Edge of Town — i.e., an album in which its creator seems so disillusioned that weariness is its selling point. Of course, tasteful despondency has always been Moby's métier, which can result in atmospheric doodles if his aim isn't perfect. But for the most part, Wait for Me expertly milks its quietude to produce songs that are equally sad and terrifying. It's impossible to know while listening to this record if the whole world has ended or just his little corner of it.
But if Play marked Moby's ascension as a trailblazer traversing a new aural landscape, then Wait for Me is its aptly-named mirror image. A decade since Play, he sounds profoundly lost and, ironically, revitalized all over again.
Moby plays Tuesday, September 29, at St. Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; 313-961-8137.