Listen to this track by diminutive techno-nerd, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter Richard Melville Hall, more famously known as Moby, that name taken from a character in the novel of his ancestor, Herman Melville author of Moby Dick. It’s his 2002 hit “We Are All Made Of Stars” as taken from his album 18.
When I first heard this song, with its Bowie-in-Berlin textures, and straight-ahead songwriting, I was both delighted as well as surprised. Moby had put out his defining record in Play a few years earlier. It was defined by its sample-based material, pulling from field recordings of blues and worksong performers, mixed with beats and pads, but also guitars.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that Moby would drift even further away from his pure-dance roots with this tune. He’d hinted at it with songs like “South Side”, and of course his 1996 Animal Rights album which was a straight-ahead punk-metal record right on the heels of his early techno heyday. He’d always held the rock world and the techno world in balance. But, with Play, his 1999 album, he managed to bring them together, and generate momentum for the follow-up record and this song, too.
Needless to say, despite the fact that it looked as though Moby had embraced commercialism by licensing so many tracks off of Play to various ad campaigns and movie soundtracks, it seems that he was still interested in exploring different sounds, and building upon what had come before. And this effort paid off , with this song reaching #11 on the UK charts, and #4 on the billboard charts. I love all of the phasing Robert Fripp-esque guitar, gauzy electronic textures, and Moby’s monotone and detached lead vocal that suits it perfectly.
Whether or not Moby actually pulled from David Bowie’s work as mentioned earlier, the two managed to strike up a friendship by the early 2000s, first by being neighbours in New York City, and later by touring together. Who knows how these things develop, whether Bowie and Moby referenced each other’s styles on their songs before or after they had a neighbourly chat over the fence in their bathrobes.
For more information about Moby, investigate Moby.com