Hotel: Ambient

by John Garratt

27 January 2015

A re-release of a Moby bonus disc shifts focus back to the one of the artist's neglected talents.
cover art


Hotel: Ambient

(Little Idiot)
US: 16 Dec 2014
UK: Import

It was in 2005 when Moby, aka Richard Hall, made a wider bid for becoming a singer-songwriter with his album Hotel. Alongside the usual downtempo instrumentals were more “songs” in the verse-chorus-with-lyrics variety. It wasn’t particularly well received. Even Moby himself wasn’t too thrilled with the way it turned out, referring to the album as “generic” on more than one occasion. But Moby’s Hotel, like the temporary form of lodging after which it was named, came with a perk in the form of a bonus CD. Hotel: Ambient was over an hour long (ten minutes longer than the Hotel album itself), containing eleven airport instrumentals that were the perfect comedown/antidote for the underwhelming Hotel. There was only one overlapping track between the two, with “Homeward Angel” being extended to twice its original length. The parent album may have had six singles, but the bonus disc by far made the better impression. It was as if the complimentary bottle of shampoo was better than the actual hotel room.

Hotel: Ambient is now being re-released on its own, remastered with an extra three tracks adding thirty minutes to the run time. The press material accompanying this reissue makes it sound like an endangered species is being rescued from the brink of extinction. According to the Little Idiot label, Hotel: Ambient has been “long out-of-print” and was “(almost) lost to history”. As of this writing, Hotel hasn’t quite turned ten years old, which is but half a blip in the overall history of pop music. Hotel: Ambient as a bonus CD was also widely available at the time of its release. Getting your hands on the 11 track, 67-minute version from 2005 is not that tricky these days (there’s one at my local library just down the street). Puffed up language like “long out-of-print” and “lost” make Hotel: Ambient sound exotic. And under certain circumstances, that might be accurate. Moby scored a huge hit with 1999’s Play thanks to the integration of gospel samples with catchy electronica. After replicating the formula somewhat on 18 three years later, Moby thrust himself back onto the dance floor with his second Voodoo Child album Baby Monkey. So an ambient album was something new to all of those who were unfamiliar with Moby prior to the success of Play. Some of Hotel: Ambient rides on a discernible pulse, such as the soft two-chord figure that propels the opener “Swear”, whereas other tracks border on isolationism—ambient music where beat and meter disappear. But those who have already fallen under the spell of Hotel: Ambient‘s charms are probably wondering if they need to purchase the album a second time.

Ostensibly, Hotel: Ambient is now a double album. The three previously unreleased tracks, “May 4 Two”, “Spaired Long” and “Live Forever (Long)” are all pretty…well, long. This gussied-up version of “Live Forever” lasts for 15:40. The other two bonus tracks are sixteen minutes combined, bringing the album close to 100 minutes in length. So if you already own the Hotel: Ambient bonus disc, you can see these unreleased tracks as a whole album of material by itself. The other issue to address is the remastering, an art form that is becoming increasingly complicated thanks to the “loudness wars” and the updating of relatively recently recorded albums where any difference amounts to hair splitting. This remaster of Hotel: Ambient sounds fuller in volume in the most modest of ways, one that allows for tucked-away keyboard swells to be noticed without giving the listener fatigue via audio compression. And even with these three additional tracks, Hotel: Ambient remains the consistent album that it was in 2005. Moby was even confident enough to place the softly oscillating May 4 Two in the middle of the album without it setting off any “this track was an outtake!” alarm bells. “Live Forever (Long)” does for “Live Forever” what “Homeward Angel (Long)” did for “Homeward Angel”—it takes an already spacey idea and stretches it even further.

And with this deluxe release of gradual ebb and flow, the memories of Hotel‘s missteps melt away from memory. No Pussyfooting it is not. But it remains one of Moby’s most satisfying career moves since the advent of his fame. A majority of this new Hotel: Ambient may be redundant, but now you won’t have to purchase Hotel in order to get it.

Hotel: Ambient


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