The skinny little Christian-vegan punk-turned-DJ who bills himself
Moby has been techno's leading crossover candidate for so long that
he's outlasted the techno concept itself, which has been folded
back into "dance music" again. This Moby foresaw back when he
covered Hendrix and Lynyrd Skynyrd at Lollapalooza in 1995, and
none of his albums has catered to purists. Symphonic and hardcore,
soulful and avant-arty, they've been brilliant messes. But while
Play (V2) is no more focused, it moves like a living thing
whether it's sampling field-recorded blues and gospel from the Alan Lomax
archive or deploying Moby's screamed or spoken vocals over
electronic funk or string synths or rock guitar or all three--all
played by Moby, of course. Dance hits being mostly pop fluff these
days, he'll have to wait till next time for one of those. But Play
is one of those records whose drive to beauty should move anybody
who just likes, well, music itself.
A less auspicious techno crossover is the Chemical Brothers' Surrender (Astralwerks), in which the prophets of so-called Big Beat retreat from their riff-heavy posture into an amalgam more pop on the one hand and more electro on the other--the kind of effort the phrase "neither here nor there" was invented to pigeonhole.
I'm always suspicious of non-Africans meddling in African pop, but former Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid has surely put a charge into Salif Keita's Papa (Metro Blue), which he coproduced. Never since he got off the dance circuit has the renowned Malian vocalist proceeded so single-mindedly from point A to point B.
Playboy, June 1999