Whether saturating film and television ads with his sample-and-beat methodology or employing various A-list celebrities in his music videos, bespectacled electronic virtuoso Moby has somehow, almost inexplicably, straddled the line between devout musicianship and commercial success. In the process, he’s become the unlikely but unquestioned king of studio-tinkering nerds everywhere. Thus, while it’s surprising that Moby’s new album, Wait for Me, eschews the successful blueprint of 1999’s Play for low-key, computerized ambience, it’s no shock that the album’s David Lynch-inspired imagery and numerous amorphous interludes are juggled with geeky aplomb.
Wait for Me does just enough to succeed as a dalliance in minimalist aura, despite its heavy focus on quaint intimacy and overall lack of dynamic percussion. To wit, the opening “Division” sounds like an addendum to 1995’s “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters,” but doesn’t stick around long enough to let its lingering digital strings dull. Many of the album’s offerings are equally paced: The buzzing, atonal “Stock Radio” barely lasts a minute, while the distant phase of “Jltf 1,” a pseudo-introduction to the dreamy, similarly named “Jltf,” pauses only a moment before flittering away into darkness. Elsewhere, Wait for Me preserves an austere mindset amid the brevity: “Pale Horses” is a plateau of bleakness, while “Shot In the Back of the Head” lacks much of the glitzy car-commercial polish listeners have come to expect from Moby’s lead singles.
Then again, Moby does very little to raise expectations. Though offerings such as “Scream Pilots” and “A Seated Night” begin with a hint of grand exposition and then promptly lose themselves in melodic stasis, they’re exceptions rather than rules. Wait for Me is persistent in humility and dismissive of grandeur, often preferring sedate exposition to the usual club-conquering anthems. It’s not the most daring choice of experimentation, but for an artist as commercially minded as Moby, it remains refreshing nonetheless.