MOBY Play (Mute)
On his, by my reckoning, seventh album, the vegan Christian dance music pioneer manages to sidestep being pigeonholed once again, and as elegantly as ever. His last few albums have swung wildly between joyous house music, industrial punk and James Bond themes: "Play" rips the map up yet again by featuring a handful of tracks based on what I assume are vintage folk and blues recordings (the sleeve carries the credit "Special thanks to the Lomaxes and all the archivists and music historians whose field recordings made this record possible") by the likes of Bessie Jones, Boy Blue and Bill Landford & The Landfordaires, and the effect is startling. Initially the likes of "Honey" and "Run On" may sound like scratchy old 78s with a drum machine slapped on top of them, but further listening suggests that there's a far stronger lineage between these faded voices and the shiny dance music they now, unknowingly, inhabit - there's as much innate understanding of, and requirement for, rhythm in the harmonies of The Landfordaires as there is in, for example, Derrick May's techno algorithms.
Elsewhere there's the usual social commentary that you might have come to expect from a Moby album ("South Side"), edging out to the fringes of gospel in places ("Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?"), affectionate homages to early 80s electro ("Bodyrock") and predictable unpredictability ("Guitar Flute & String"). In sum "Play" makes for one of the most genuinely thought-provoking dance albums of the (admittedly disappointing) year so far: it doesn't shake the windows and rattle the floors in the manner of "The Best BigBeat Album In The World Ever Volume 427" but if you value invention above the purely visceral give it a hearing.