One can't help but marvel at the amount and versatility of Moby's artistic output recently. His fourth release in three years (following two rousing post-punk offerings, and a long-form ambient record), Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt also marks almost 20 years since his massive breakthrough album, Play, largely seen as responsible for putting electronic music (quaintly referred to back then as electronica) on the map.
Casual fans unfamiliar with Moby's post-Play material will immediately be struck by the pervasively sombre, almost gloomy tone of his latest. Most Moby releases slow things down for a few introspective, philosophical tracks, but Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt goes all in on this sound — for better or worse depending on your Moby-centric preferences. Certain elements remain: his predilection for ethereal, world-weary female vocals, for instance, and of course the unfiltered piano and synthetic strings that have long populated his work. His almost-rapping-but-not-quite vocal delivery remains as well, slipping imperceptibly into delicate tunefulness for some often disarming moments; late-album highlights "The Middle Is Gone" and "This Wild Darkness" are fine examples of this.
Certainly there are moments of beauty here (the mournfully descending piano line in "The Ceremony of Innocence" comes to mind), but they're tragic as opposed to uplifting. Like his recent punk releases, the current American political climate looms large in the background, but Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt lacks the confrontational energy of those albums. Instead it's resigned in tone, and quietly personal, Moby having effectively transitioned over the years from electronic artist to a singer-songwriter who happens to prefer electronic sounds. It's a tasteful and mature evolution for one of the genre's key names, and long-time fans will have no problem assimilating this well-crafted, down-tempo album into Moby's already eclectic body of work. (Arts & Crafts)