"I guess I just accept that the music business has fallen apart," says Moby, describing the unexpectedly fruitful environment that spawned his 2013 album Innocents. Indeed, that's exactly what Innocents entails. Moby's 11th studio album to date proves an uncompromised, fully realized work from one of the most iconoclastic, innovative, individual forces in electronic music – or popular music, period. As such, Innocents proves distinctively a piece with Moby's discography, while simultaneously pushing the artist towards new challenges.
Moby also chose to work with an outside producer for the first time in his career here: Mark "Spike" Stent, whose Grammy-studded résumé spans superstar pop (Madonna, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé), rock (U2, Bruce Springsteen, Muse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and the genre-defying Vanguard (Björk, Massive Attack, Goldfrapp, M.I.A.). Another first marked by Innocents was Moby's unexpected choice of collaborators. On Innocents, however, the guests provided a distinct inspirational motif. Among those seasoned voices are the sole male lead vocals to appear on a Moby album.
Innocents reverses this tradition via some of the most distinctive male vocalists in rock music. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips duets memorably with Moby on rousing first single "The Perfect Life"; alt-rock legend Mark Lanegan lends his dark croon to the lynchian electro-noir ballad "The Lonely Night"; and the shimmering "Almost Home" proves even more sublime thanks to the indie-folk eminence Damien Jurado's empyreal tones. Innocents' female contributors, meanwhile, prove nearly as surprising. The eerie apocalyptic ballad "The Last Day" features the enigmatic vocals and songwriting acumen of Skylar Grey. Elsewhere, the defiant soul lament of "Don't Love Me" places the unforgettably brassy pipes of Moby tour vocalist Inyang Bassey into a lush, retro-futuristic setting.
Much of Innocents recalls vintage Moby in the best way. Songs like "The Last Day" and "A Long Time" evoke play's ingenious sampling of haunting spirituals over club grooves; as well, "Saints" manipulates disembodied diva vocals, acid-house breakbeats, and orchestral synths into an uplifting yet melancholic anthem – much in the same way as did Moby's breakthrough hit, the rave classic "Go." Meanwhile, the moody cinematic ambience of instrumentals "Everything That Rises" and "Going Wrong" suggests scores for films that don't yet exist – reminding why Moby remains the go-to source for soundtracks.
Innocents also carves out its own unique niche in Moby's discography. For one, it's the first album he's created since moving to Los Angeles from his longtime New York City home. However, despite its L.A. origins, Moby insists Innocents "doesn't sound like sunshine and the beach – it's not L.A. pastoral like, say, a CSNY or Eagles record." Instead, the album captures the atmospheric anomie of being caught between eras – its sound and vision balancing today's high-speed digitalism with the discarded, obsolete technology of an earlier machine age. On one level, this sensation is achieved sonically.