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"Music is this weird time machine," says Moby.

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"Music can accomplish a lot of things, it has many utilities, but it's a fascinating way to revisit the past. When I hear 'Night Moves' by Bob Seger, immediately I'm 10 years old, I'm at a pizza parlor in Norwalk, Connecticut, with my mom and her hippie boyfriend, and that song is playing on a jukebox. And that's also a function of the music that I make, where I can go back and remember the environment or the context in which the songs were made, and also how it changed so much."

On his new album, Resound NYC, Moby has reimagined and orchestrated fourteen of his most iconic tracks, focusing on his work from the years 1994 to 2010. Guest vocalists on the project - his second release on the renowned Deutsche Grammophon label - include such remarkable and eclectic artists as Nicole Scherzinger, Gregory Porter, Ricky Wilson (Kaiser Chiefs), and Amythyst Kiah.

His 20th studio album reflects not only an era in Moby's life, but also his birthplace and former home. "I gave myself the broad but specific criteria that the music on the record had to have either been written or recorded originally in New York," he says. "It's one of the most iconic global cities, and everybody on the planet has an idea of this place. And then also there was the question of my own personal, subjective relationship with it. When I was revisiting the songs, there was that memory of the context. Where were they made? Were they made on Mott Street? Were they made on the Upper West Side?"

Yet the genesis of Resound NYC actually begins in his new base of Los Angeles. In 2018, Moby - a pioneer in electronic music who has sold over 20 million records worldwide - performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall alongside the LA Philharmonic, with Gustavo Dudamel conducting; Mayor Eric Garcetti even joined them and played piano.

"It just seemed so ridiculously outside the realm of possibility," he says. "When I was 19, 20 years old, and I was living in an abandoned factory and DJing for 10 people a night, I never for a second thought I'd have a record deal. I never thought there would ever be anybody, apart from maybe a long-suffering girlfriend, who would pretend to like the music that I made." 
So when, following the concert, a representative from Deutsche Grammophon approached Moby and asked if he would be interested in recording an orchestral album, of course he jumped at the chance. "I'd be interested in engineering someone else's orchestral album," he remembers thinking, "I'd be interested in making coffee for someone if they were making an orchestral album on Deutsche Grammophon, let alone having that yellow logo on one of my records."

It might seem an unlikely home for a guy who, in addition to his own work, is known for producing and remixing artists as varied and disparate as David Bowie, Public Enemy, Britney Spears, Ozzy Osbourne, the Beastie Boys, and Daft Punk. But in fact, the blending of symphonic sounds and pop were what first captured his imagination.

"Before I discovered punk rock, I loved orchestral classic rock," says Moby. "My first concert was Yes at Madison Square Garden in 1978. Before I borrowed my friend's copy of Never Mind the Bollocks, before I taped the first Clash album, I didn't like a lot of classic rock, but I loved orchestral rock, and even orchestral elements in rock - like the end of 'The Boxer' by Simon and Garfunkel or 'Vincent' by Don McLean, or 'Nights in White Satin' or Led Zeppelin's 'Rain Song.' So it was super compelling revisiting my songs and seeing whether they held up with a more traditional, non-electronic, orchestral approach."

The first result was 2021's acclaimed Reprise, which featured guests including Kris Kristofferson, Mark Lanegan, Jim James, and Skylar Grey. For that album, Moby's approach was purely old-school: "We recorded at East-West Studios, where Frank Sinatra used to work, in the same room where the Beach Boys made Pet Sounds, using old microphones and old equipment."

For the follow-up, though, his sense of musical opportunity expanded. "I'm a little embarrassed of this, but my understanding was that orchestral music meant a very specific thing," he says. "It meant a lot of people on stage playing traditional classical instruments. And with this record, my A&R person let me know that orchestras can be anything. An orchestra can be turntables, it can be electronics, it can be cannons - like the '1812 Overture' - it can be whatever the composer wants it to be.

"So rather than having every song get the same orchestral treatment, I kind of built an orchestra for each song, with very traditional elements, but also with old analog synths and an old Mellotron. That combining of very idiosyncratic, modern elements with very traditional elements was really liberating and satisfying."

The resulting arrangements on Resound NYC are thrilling and surprising. His 2000 hit "South Side" is given a punch that's reminiscent of a 1970s cop show theme. "I had never really worked with brass in that way, but I realized a lot of the music I love is incredibly brass-centric," he says. "I was listening to some old records by an underground New York band called Konk and the horns were so exciting. And I was like, 'Oh, we can build this orchestra however we want - let's include super-aggressive, JB Horns, Manu Dibango, Konk-type horns and use brass in a very percussive way.'"

The album's vocalists came from wildly unexpected directions. P.T. Banks, who sings "When It's Cold I'd Like to Die" (the original was recently featured in Netflix's Stranger Things finale) sings in a wedding band in Texas. A friend pointed out Lady Blackbird to Moby, who located the singer and sent them the instrumental track for "Walk with Me" from the Wait for Me album. "The next day, they sent back their vocals and it sounded a thousand times better than anything I was expecting," he says. "I had to peel back a lot of the instrumentation because I was like, I don't need to gild the lily here.' It can be so austere because her vocal is so powerful."

Moby had recorded a huge, orchestrated version of his 1999 hit "Run On," which was initially built on a sample from "Run On for a Long Time," a 1949 recording by Bill Landford and the Landfordairs of the traditional "God's Gonna Cut You Down." He sent it to the mesmerizingly soulful Danielle Ponder, who was in the hospital with her father.

"She told him that she was going to sing 'Run On,' and he said, 'Oh, I remember that song' - because apparently he had sung it many years ago," says Moby. "So she recorded him singing into her phone and she sent it to me, and I was like, 'Oh, I have to throw away everything.' We basically threw away everything that had been recorded, and I rewrote the song around his vocals." 

The one seeming outlier on the album is a version of Neil Young's "Helpless" with Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies and Damien Jurado. "That was my mom's favorite song," Moby explains, "and one of my very first memories was being three or four years old, on the West Side Highway with my mom in her Plymouth, and hearing that on AM radio. It's about as far from a New York song as you can get - written by a Canadian about Ontario, sung by a Canadian woman and a man from Seattle - but for me, it's one of my most seminal basic memories, hearing that song when I was just old enough to be aware that songs were a thing and that New York was a thing."

With Resound NYC, Moby reconsiders not just the evolution of his own work, but also a time, a place, and even a transformation in our world. "If I'm being honest, there's a wistful, almost sad element to revisiting these songs - and it's nothing to do with aging, but it's actually to do with broader cultural elements," he says. "When you think of the '90s, Bill Clinton was President; the rave scene was this utopian, idyllic world; the Soviet Union had ended; climate change was just an idea for a book that Al Gore was going to write. Everything seemed so infused and pregnant with possibility. And now that seems a long way away.

"Back then, making music was this celebration of the potential that our world had, that our culture had. And now it's almost a refuge - a reminder that we once had so much hope."

February 2023




Reprise Remixes

Reprise Remixes