Voodoo Child: Baby Monkey

Jason MacNeil

Voodoo Child

Baby Monkey

Label: V2
US Release Date: 2004-01-27
UK Release Date: 2004-02-02

When Moby isn't dishing out three or four of his daily musings on his official web site, he's making music under a horde of disguises. One such disguise, Voodoo Child, has been around for a number of years making singles and EPs. But this is the first time that this character has released a full-length album. Is it Moby? Well, yes and no. Is it any good? Well, yes and no. Taking a bit from his own albums such as 18 and also 18 B-sides, the record starts with "Gotta Be Loose in Your Mind". It's a song that could easily be from his smash album -- the deliberate but funky back beat as well as the sampling from older soul singers of yesteryear. It moves into a format that Fatboy Slim does far better, raising both the tempo into a collage of sound, but here Voodoo Child stalls slightly before taking it back into the heart of the tune. More ethereal keyboards are added on top for color, but it's not really needed. It's also a bit like Primal Scream-lite.

"Minors" is your standard techno dance beat à la Erasure or Pet Shop Boys. The keyboard noodling that brings up the tempo is a plus, but again this falls into a rather simple routine that picks up in intensity before petering out a minute or two later. It has more in common with bands like Underworld also, although they would take this song to a far higher plateau. An ambient "Take It Home" gives a different dimension to Moby's presence, allowing for the beat to be set in stone before an ethereal and very light keyboard/synth texture is blended in. Think of him producing or remix Vangelis and you might have some idea of what's going on here. There is also a Kraftwerk minimalism here which is a bonus. It's the first song with a consistent flow as well, making it all the more appealing.

Moby got the idea for this album after a night out on the town, so the highs and lows that come from any DJ set is found on this record -- one mood different from the other but not so jarring as to lose whatever steam might be present. "Light Is in Your Eyes", with its cymbal and organic layers, sounds like New Order minus the meaty guitars or bass of either Sumner or Cook, respectively. And it also gains a fresh breath of air simply by laying low halfway through. "Electronics" misses the mark totally however. A cheesy '70s era tinkling of the keys makes this song dated and quite bland by nearly all standards, almost Yello-ish. "Strings", which has, you guessed it, strings in it, has a theatrical, cinematic, tension-filled flair to it. Here Moby, er, Voodoo Child cuts the tension with some blips and bleeps that sound like a video game on the way out. The big payoff is more of an effect taken almost directly from "On the Run" from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. You can just imagine Moby sashaying from one instrument to another in concert on this tune when not screaming or hopping up and down.

After "Gone" which you should be able to say good riddance to, a trio of shorter tunes comes at you, starting off with "Unh Yeah". It's a funky, soulful and rather solid ditty that seems to have a sense of purpose or boogie direction. Moby takes a sparse amount of effects and morphs it into something that should work by all measuring sticks but does. A Schroeder-esque piano follows with better than expected results as well. "Obscure" is sort of an eclectic mix of dance, techno, house and more atmospheric keys. But unfortunately this just seems like unwanted and needless noodling on Moby's part. The hi-hat heavy "Last" is best of the lot though, minimal to some extent but having just enough pop to keep you moving in some mode or manner. And thankfully it doesn't overdo it, petering out at just under four minutes.

Moby rounds things out with a lengthy and at times arduous "Synthesisers". Fading in from the previous song "Harpie", this Eno-esque opening sets the tone for a darker, murkier Trainspotting-esque tune. However, seeing the glass half-full and being refilled again, the bright touches make it almost spacey, uplifting and ambient. A dance beat is buried in the mix for the initial section as the lush arrangement settles in for a reflective and pensive span of time. It might be a better album if a tad self-edited, but overall it'll do for most Mobyites.

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