December 24, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Moby’s Trick

The timing was perfect: with a century crawling to a close, studio wizard Moby conjured up an album that distilled the essence of the past 100 years. Play, Moby’s wave-making leviathan after a decade in pop music, took voices from the early days of the century — scratchy old field recordings of gospel spirituals and lonesome blues — and wired them to the silvery, cybernetic textures of our electronic age. ”People have called Play a sort of fin de siecle work. If it is, it’s purely accidental,” Moby, 32, muses. ”I’m not really clever enough to imbue my work with a specific overarching theme.” Accidental or not, his haunting Matrix-in-Mississippi sound-scapes managed to convert a whole new audience to techno. ”Just last night,” he marvels, ”I was walking down the street, and I gave some change to a homeless guy, and he told me how much he loved my album.”

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