Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Techno is a music of producers and DJs remixing at will. None of the "groups" who've made their names--Utah Saints, the Prodigy, Ultramarine, Orbital, the Orb--have registered the kind of personal impact that means stardom as we know it. So maybe producer-DJ Moby will never be a star either. An alternative-rock veteran whose lush, propulsive Go is the most universally admired of all techno anthems, he does perform live, but his stage presence is rigorously self-effacing--a mild-mannered ascetic equipped with computerized keyboards and a three-legged stool, he seems not so much to create music as to conjure it of the void.

On the other hand, maybe he'll be a star of a sort we can't quite conceive, a chance he creates by eschewing the forbiddingly cultlike aura of so much new dance music. From the quietly trancelike to the ecstatically hyper, his best records all share a recognizable spirit-feel: simultaneously modest and luxuriant, compelling and humane. And he has a pop sense--he knows melodies, he knows hooks, and he knows they're not always the same.

Moby's six-cut, 30-minute Move (Elektra), is a showcase: high-energy with diva, electrodrum ensemble, acoustic escape, even a miniature symphony. Everything unique except one remix, and it never quits. Ambient (Instinct) is more unified, the kind of aural wallpaper Brian Eno can't put up anymore. Go is on the somewhat spottier Moby (Instinct). Start with Move and hear what I mean.


Fast Cuts: And now, three traditional techno consumables--compilations. Aural Ecstasy: The Best of Techno (Relativity) is loud, obvious, hell, almost rocklike. I prefer the smoother Futurhythms (Medicine), which I guarantee won't put you to sleep either. And while Welcome to the Future (Epic) is more up-and-down, its ups include Out of the Ordinary's visionary techno-pretechno pairing, the Hammond-B3 trip "Da Da Da."

Playboy, Oct. 1993


Sept. 1993 Nov. 1993