As "electronica" fades happily into the annals of showbiz hype, what we're left with--a whole lotta what we used to just call dance music--is at a crossroads. And by extension, so is Moby. Though he continues to be one of the most singular talents in music, his place in the postrave world is uncertain. Few artists in any genre have risen so far and fallen so hard. During the first half of the 90s, a string of classic 12-inches ("Go," "Next Is the E," "Ah-Ah," "Move," "Feeling So Real") solidified his position as the standard-bearer for the U.S. rave scene, and with the 1995 LP Everything Is Wrong, he proved himself a jack-of-all-styles and the master of most. Then the backlash--which had begun rumbling when he signed to Elektra in 1993--erupted in full force. When Spin named Everything Is Wrong its album of the year, the underground's worst fears were confirmed. Obviously the former Richard Melville Hall wanted to become a--bleccch--pop star. Moby's response? A series of interviews in which he lobbed largely accurate brickbats at the techno elite for its willful retreat into obscurity at the expense of pleasure. In 1997 Animal Rights, a passionate, often brilliant statement of independence from any doctrine, alienated many old-timers. Now, after fulfilling his Elektra contract with the patchy compilation I Like to Score, he's signed to V2 and is set to release the bluesy, down-tempo Play on June 1. A subtle, beautiful album, Play sounds less like the work of a dance auteur than an extremely talented home-recording enthusiast. Paradoxically, Moby's also slowly working his way back onto the rave circuit with his first DJ sets (like the one he'll spin here this weekend) since before Everything Is Wrong. It'll be interesting to see whether he'll be sneered at for his sins or welcomed back into the fold that he almost single-handedly built. Friday, 10 PM, Crobar the Nightclub, 1543 N. Kingsbury; 312-413-7000. MICHAELANGELO MATOS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Joseph Ciltice.