Review Summary: Broken down melodic electronic music for insomniacs and empty cities at 2am
After "Wait For Me", Moby went on to create an album that, in his own words, would sound like "broken down melodic electronic music for empty cities at 2am". “Destroyed”, a soundtrack to his insomnia, but also, the eponymous book of photos taken by him that comes out at the same time, was written on his last tour, during sleepless nights and captures the less exciting side of touring. Considering his last effort was a really solid, personal and intimate album, "Destroyed" comes off as a natural progression, mixing the predominantly downtempo ambient found on "Wait For Me" with the more upbeat elements.
The album starts off with the trademark ambient opener, 'The Broken Places', has all sorts of "broken down" bleepy synths and soundscapes. It grows slowly and manages to remain interesting throughout its 4 minutes. The album takes off with the second track, "Be The One", a great song that features a sustaining distorted guitar lead with Moby's vocoded vocals similar to the ones on "Whispering Wind". It's one of the most "rocky" tracks he has recorded lately.
'Sevastopol' and 'The Low Hum' are more electronic, the former being a techno track reminiscent to "Last Night"'s sound, but the overall atmosphere is less of a party hard one and visuals more of a 3am moment. The latter is, surprisingly for Moby, more of an upbeat modern trance track complete with vocals that could come off of a Dash Berlin record. Sounds fresh put up against what he has done recently.
The album slows the pace again with 'Rockets', first released on A Night In NYC compilation, it’s closer to Wait For Me in sound. The song creates a ‘spacey’ but intimate atmosphere and the sparse, emotional female vocals blend in quite well. Then comes 'The Day', the album's first single which is somewhat similar to David Bowie's sound, like 'Spiders' from "Hotel" is. Moby's depressing vocals fit the song's mood, however it's not him at his best and the chorus comes out a bit generic, so the whole song might wear off fast.
The powerful diva vocals make a comeback on "Destroyed" on 'The Right Thing', driving the song over a mellow, lounge-tinged pattern, and the result is a really nice, laid back listen. The next tune, 'After', is quite confusing, especially after these more quiet moments, since it has prominent, stomping drums and some synth layers that sound big for Moby's usual intimate approach. Moby is doubled by background vocoded vocals and together, the 2 voices sound more powerful and desperate.
Moby's goal for this album was to create a broken down melodic sound for empty cities at 2am. On the album's centerpiece, 'Victoria Lucas', his vision fits most. The track has layers of synths that have a rather cold and ‘impersonal’ sound and they mix with bleeping sounds and some humming that comes in more as an instrument, not standing out. Everything adds to the mood and the picture you get is you watching the city late at night/early in the morning, walking the streets when they are empty and quiet (The song’s video portrays the same thing). Another interesting surprise is 'Blue Moon', influenced by 80's new wave. It was possibly inspired by Erasure's 'Breathe', but the result is an awesome tune, not a rip off. Together with 'Victoria Lucas', these are highlights.
Towards the end of the album, the mood becomes more depressive with "Lie Down In Darkness", a bland, midtempo tune, which is accompanied by strings and repeated female vocals. The song’s arrangement sounds closer to tracks from 18. Then the album ends up into ambient territory, however 'Stella Maris' comes out as a really beautiful and intense moment. There's a minimal approach, only a synthesizer and epic vocals that again come in more as an instrument, to complement the music. It somehow feels like you are dreaming and you hear this tune in the background fading in and out occasionally.
The last three songs 'The Violent Bear It Away', 'Lacrimae' and 'When You Are Old' are all instrumental ambient, and while the former, is really interesting, becoming louder and more powerful, much like 'God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters' (it comes close), 'Lacrimae' could have been cut at around 4-5 minutes, since it loops for most of the 8 minutes. And last, the album’s closer, 'When You Are Old' is too short to take off and it ends abruptly. After listening to the whole record, one thing to compliment is the track list arrangement, Moby managing to put the songs in a great order, giving the album a nice, cohesive flow.
There are some negative aspects, however, in some parts Moby relying a bit on his strengths and also, he could have avoided 15 minutes of the usual pure ambient at the end, since there are already some throughout the album, and they are better. Another minor flaw is that a few songs end up too close to other albums’ sound (like 'Lie Down In Darkness' seems more at home on "18", and 'The Day' on "Hotel"), but they are solid tracks and don't really drag the album down.
Overall, on a personal note, “Destroyed” is really great, mostly because Moby strayed away from contemporary club music scene and went on for a more personal, melancholic sound that was always his strength. He took influences from both past and today’s electronic scene, to release not an immediate record, but one that becomes more and more interesting after a few listens.
Highlights – "Victoria Lucas", "The Low Hum", "Blue Moon", "Stella Maris", "The Right Thing"