Watch: Darker, moodier Moby rides in on “Pale Horses”

Moby‘s last two albums haven’t sat well with many fans. 2005’s Hotel was considered too deliberately poppy (except for the limited Hotel: Ambient bonus disc) and 2008’s Last Night, though a return to Moby’s bygone days of hardcore DJ’ing, was a shock to the system for fans who first  encountered Moby through his multi-platinum smash hit, Play. For everyone who fell in love with Moby’s somber and grippingly beautiful synth work, your prayers have been answered. Wait For Me drops on the 30th of June and it’s looking to be well worth the wait.

If Wait For Me‘s first single, “Shot in the Back of the Head” didn’t get you excited then, “Pale Horses” will.  “Pale Horses” is reminiscent of melancholy classics from Play and 18 such as “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?” and “Sunday (The Day Before My Birthday)” – pretty but sad instrumentals over a lonely rhythm with vocals to match.  The vocals, made fresh for this track, are provided by Amelia Zirin-Brown, aka Lady Rizo of Lady Rizo and the Assets Orchestra, and are utilized as samples to construct that distinctly Moby feel.

The video for the single continues what might be a trend for the self-published album’s videos – digital 2D animation. The previous video, for “Shot in the Back of the Head”, was directed as well as drawn by David Lynch. Though simple and raw in its construction, the video is evocative and fits the mysterious instrumental track well. The video for “Pale Horses” doesn’t follow suit.

The video places the cover of Wait For Me into a narrative in which Moby’s “Little Idiot” caricature is lonely and looking for a friend. He draws a replica of himself to life using water from a puddle. They dance together, but the duplicate is washed away by rain. The Little Idiot then goes all out and draws a train, a dog, some train tracks and leaves for the moon. On the moon, he makes a whole army of duplicates to dance with, but inexplicably it rains on the moon and he’s left all alone again. The concept is decent, but it’s in the execution that the “Pale Horses” video falls short.

Digital 2D animation has all but decimated the traditional hand drawn cartoon format. Digital is cheaper, easier, and, therefore, faster to animate than the old ways. Make no mistake, digital can be just as versatile and creative an outlet as hand drawn animation, but the challenge is in overcoming the simplicity that the format makes so easy. Even terrific modern cartoon shows such as Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack have flat look to them. Compare them to something like the hand drawn extravaganza of Superjail and note the distinct difference. The video for “Pale Horses”, like many music videos using digital 2D animation, is an over-simplified experience.

Whereas Moby’s illustrations have a lumpy and charming hand drawn quality, the video reduces these designs to needlessly clean lines. It plays at the idea of having a simple doodle look to it, but feels overwhelmingly sterile. The sterility is made all the more apparent by the Little Idiot’s interaction with his duplicates. The attempted charm of the video is to see all these characters dancing together, but the experience is weakened by a surplus of duplicated character animation. Yet another terrific song succumbs to a lackluster animated video.

Animation is always a grueling process and people have always had to cut corners, but in short, subject genres, particularly music videos, animation should shine its brightest. Apparently the disconnect between the artist and their work is too severe in the digital medium, because bland animation is happening all the time, especially in music videos. It’s sincerely disappointing.

What isn’t disappointing is the song, “Pale Horses”. So click the video, watch it if you like, and when you get bored, continue listening to the song as you browse CoS in another tab. Then remind yourself how awesome animated music videos can be by watching Björk’s “I Miss You” or Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution”.


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