Richard Melville Hall wears many different brightly colored hats; a list of his characteristics reads like outlandish fiction. This born-again Christian vegan who doesn’t even kill the cockroaches in his New York City loft creates amazing techno, soul and jungle music. But he began his musical career as a hardcore punk in Connecticut’s Vatican Commandos and performs live as a guitar-wielding or keyboard-pounding rocker, not a rarefied electronics controller. Like Richard James (Aphex Twin) or Michael Paradinas (µ-Ziq), Moby is a true innovator, making the mold even as he’s breaking it. Although nominally a “techno artist,” Moby is also a rocker and dabbles in a wide panoply of musical styles.
Moby’s first 12-inch vinyl releases (“Next Is the E,” “Drop a Beat,” “Go”) were released on the New York dance independent Instinct, which later collected them on three CDs: Moby, Early Underground and Rare. The first contains “Go,” which sets Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks theme swooping softly against a rhythm track. (The Go Remixes EP features several different takes on “Go,” most of which differ substantially from each other.) These early songs are primarily fast-paced dance tracks, using samples and synthesizers to carry the distinctively plentiful melodies. Moby begins with the hammering repetition of “Drop a Beat,” which is classic techno: fast, fast, fast, with whistles and a repeated sample. Although most of the tracks don’t break away from standard formulae, his compositional flair shines through. Ambient demonstrates Moby’s vision of ambient music to be as innovative as on his rhythmic music, but the record isn’t as engrossing as his other work.
The six-track Move EP contains two dissimilar mixes (one heavy on piano) of the title track, a bubbling and mobile high-energy dance pulse with vocals by Carole Sylvan and Rozz Morehead, as well as the techno gospel of “All That I Need Is to Be Loved” (the EP gives thanks to Jesus Christ), the percussion-driven “Morning Dove,” the atmospheric jungle mania of “Unloved Symphony” (which uses an orchestral passage for its bridge) and the nearly subliminal piano/ambience background of “The Rain Falls and the Sky Shudders.”
Everything Is Wrong, Moby’s astonishing major-label debut, reveals even more facets to his music: although there’s plenty to dance to, “Hymn” is delicately beautiful, “What Love” wraps its rock center in skeletal electric-guitar blues and “All That I Need Is to Be Loved” (completely remade from the EP version) is stark hardcore industrial thrash. Even Moby’s techno sounds different; “Feeling So Real” and “Everytime You Touch Me” set female diva and male dancehall vocals put against massive jungle rhythms. “Bring Back My Happiness” is an infectiously catchy (and incredibly fast) dance workout. Mimi Goese (ex-Hugo Largo) sings on “Into the Blue” and “When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die”; her light, airy voice fills the languidly elegant songs with mournful emotion. And Moby’s passion isn’t restricted to Everything Is Wrong‘s tunes: the booklet contains a list of “Facts That I’ve Collected” (about such issues as meat production, pollution, fur and animal testing) and includes two essays, one of which explains the record’s title and another that begins “The Christian right is neither. God is angry, I think.” (The following year, Mute issued a two-CD album of remixes in the UK.)
On the technological surface, Disc offers only the album’s “Everytime You Touch Me,” a remix of “Feeling So Real” and the previously unreleased “Shining.” Tap into Disc‘s CD-ROM portion, however, and there are two more album tracks and the title cut of Move as well as the visuals.