Release Date: Oct 14, 2016
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, Alternative Dance, Dance-Rock
Review Summary: The protest rave…At the end of the ‘00s, Moby turned his back on the mainstream, opting instead for a low key profile that offered him the liberty to do what he wanted. Although the huge success of Play, 18 and even Hotel brought him a vast number of fans, headlining all the major festivals in the world, there were just as many who started criticizing him. His ubiquity was too much for some and soon, those looked for just about anything to complain.
If Moby was in a state of reflection earlier this year when he published Porcelain — a frank memoir of self-discovery, substance abuse, and his role in the early ’90s electronic music scene — his mood seems now to be one of urgent panic for our present and beyond. These Systems Are Failing is a fiery eulogy for the future, an album that pulls sonic motifs from the iconic artist’s past to wail angry proclamations about what is likely to come. Those that first found Moby with 1999’s Play — a masterful tapestry of Delta blues vocal samples paired with downbeat, melodious electronica — may not know that three years earlier, he released Animal Rights, a punk rock album.
Scan the daily headlines and you'll find no shortage of things at present for anyone to be upset about. Moby isn't letting the ills of the world get him down though; instead, they serve as the driving force behind These Systems Are Failing, an album both powerful and political that plays through without coming off the least bit preachy. In an accompanying manifesto, Moby writes of "great cities…industries…systems" that have affected society negatively, instead of providing the protection and freedom they once promised.
Co-credited to the Void Pacific Choir -- a name derived from a D.H. Lawrence quote -- These Systems Are Failing is only slightly more collaborative than Moby's solitary ambient work, and its effect is the opposite of that. Fully energized and tightly concentrated, the producer's first studio album in three years is a concise and infrequently relenting set of nine songs that rail against those who have caused emotional and planetary harm.
One of the fascinating and enduring qualities about Moby is his role as a musical chameleon. On the one side sit his meditative compositions. Earlier this year he released free downloads of Long Ambients1, around four hours of music that accompany his yoga sessions. These broad sweeps and bare lines of music prove cathartic and soothing.
As a confessed millennial who grew up in the era of Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, and finally iTunes, I’ve never had much of a problem with MP3s. Audio aficionados have long insisted that the digital compression of this file format creates an artificial texture inferior to the warmth and depth of vinyl, but frankly it all sounds basically the same to my ears. If ever there were a case to be made against MP3s, however, Moby’s new album would be prime evidence for the jury.
The theme of excess is a key component of what's been billed as Moby & the Void Pacific Choir's debut, These Systems Are Failing. The album's 12 furiously paced tracks recall Moby's 1996 album Animal Rights, which was deeply rooted in the hardcore punk influences of the musician's youth. This newest project takes the frantic urgency of the artist's early work and polishes the edges, adding an electronic sheen to what are otherwise guitar songs, all in the name of pointing to the modern world's most destructive flaws.
Moby’s thirteenth album comes packaged with a 28-page booklet, which might lead you to expect Richard Melville-Hall’s most long-winded liner-notes broadside to date. But instead of railing against the sort of hot-button issues he has addressed in releases past—Christian hypocrisy, say, or mass incarceration or factory farming—we get page after page of the man’s photography and the lowercase statement “these systems are failing” every so often atop images of graveyards, airplanes, a family with golden skin, and what might be a “Bojack Horseman”-themed pool party at Moby’s old castle in the Hollywood Hills (though he’s since downsized). These Systems Are Failing is Moby’s most furious album in twenty years, since he neatly derailed his electronic career with the righteous punk spurt of Animal Rights back in 1996.
Moby's angry. Softly spoken, vegan Moby is angry. He's angry about the things you'd expect, from the environment to the warmongering big-wigs, and he's letting it all out. No Twin Peaks samples, no blues-house, just a lot of shouting over grim but textured electro-punk. The Moby legend claims this ….