In 1997, I left a cult. As is the nature of all fertile young women blossoming into an existential crisis, my escape had a soundtrack. In this case, it was Moby: Everything is Wrong, and Moby: I Like To Score, and Tori Amos: Boys For Pele (because nothing says "deprogramming from an apocalyptic sect" like harpsichords).
Everything is Wrong, mainly, was onomatopoeia to my headspace. It was just as intense. Everything was wrong. I was - for the first time in my life - “feeling so real”. My choices now had consequences that couldn’t be fixed by an impending eternal life on paradise.
The album seemed to be saying: “You’re not immortal, but maybe we can dance.”
This lasted until the day I had to choose between buying weed or buying breakfast. I took a handful of CDs, including Everything is Wrong, to Tom's Tracks where all the RISD kids hung out. I bought stems and seeds and smoked them over an omelet.
I didn’t own any more Moby after that point. I stopped dating a raver and started dating a goth. I shaved the back of my head and talked about Haujobb and Skinny Puppy and couldn’t figure out why everyone thought I was a lesbian.
Moby was too clean for me, then, too slickly produced. It was like a brightly lit hotel lobby. There was nothing wrong with it, I just wasn’t inclined to hang out there.
I don't respond to music which sounds too perfect, in the same way I prefer film to digital. If Play is as crisp and uniform as the viewfinder on a prosumer SLR, the songs on Wait For Me are the black and white negatives of a Hasselblad hung on clothespins across the bathroom.
On the whole, the album conjures the dirty melodies of The Cure or Joy Division or Brian Eno, although no one song embodies it as a parody. Perhaps it seems nostalgic by virtue of being so heartfelt.
The nicest surprise is that the past use of overly-trained female vocals has been replaced by throaty honesty in the style of PJ Harvey. And there are echoes. Songs feel acoustic, but aren’t.
Ghost Return is ethereal and new agey, while Wait For Me is like the click of a metal fan in Cat Power’s hot, empty room. Walk With Me is a wrenching spiritual as sung on a mattress on the floor. But the standout song was the lonely instrumental Isolate, which resonated with me in such a way that I wanted to transcribe it and sneak into a music school and play it myself.
I can see Wait For Me being performed in the orchestra pit of a forgotten auditorium, under peeling ceilings and ripped velvet curtains. I would certainly suffer the broken springs of broken theater seating poking the backs of my thighs in order to experience it. Sitting in modern, comfortable chairs somehow seems like it would be missing the point.
(Exclusive First Listen of Wait For Me is at NPR.org)