In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Moby had used a variety of different pseudonyms, quickly essentially becoming the entire artist roster of Instinct Records. His best known nom-de-plume was Voodoo Child, a name he used to release an eponymous single in 1990, followed by a double a-side single Demons/Horses in 1994, and then a full-length album The End of Everything
Having got on with other things for the next seven or eight years, he then returned with a couple of underground 12″ releases, which grew into Baby Monkey,
For its sound, Baby Monkey owes a lot to Play and 18, as you might expect, but it’s also very different. Gotta Be Loose in Your Mind opens the album, with a repeated vocal sample and some dark beats. It’s one of the shortest tracks on here, and also one of the least imaginative in many ways. But it soon gives way to Minors, a dark nouveau-rave piece that may lack some of the cheesy charm of his 1990-ish output but sounds infinitely more professional.
Take it Home is next, side A of the second release from this album and (to date) the final Voodoo Child single. Somewhat analogous to tracks such as Guitar, Flute & String from Play, this is largely built around gentle pads and some slightly quirky samples, as well as a huge bass line and housey beats.
Then comes Light is in Your Eyes, side A of the first single from this album. This is by far the best track on here, and probably the only one that could have hit the charts if this had seen a more commercial release. Again, it’s built around pads with huge bass and beats, and frankly it sounds a lot like Moby, but it’s beautiful and catchy, and probably deserved better than being hidden away on an obscure underground release.
The two AA-sides follow in chronological order, the lovely chirpy Electronics first, a relaxed piece that sounds as though it belongs as the piece to wake everyone up again at the end of a chillout mix. Then Strings,
Having got the singles out of the way, there’s still half an album to enjoy, and really the theme continues – these are oddly named, long, dance and house tracks, generally without vocal samples, or with only indiscernible ones if they do turn up. The gaps between tracks are so short that each track almost blends into the next.
Gone wouldn’t have sounded out of place on one of Moby‘s obscure early compilation releases, full of acid squelches and fast chord changes. Unh Yeah – not to be confused with Ooh Yeah, from Last Night,
You can tell that this album was probably recorded pretty quickly – not because the quality slips particularly, but because Moby – sorry, Voodoo Child – was clearly having a lot of fun recording these tracks.
Obscure follows, with huge bass and sliding synth sounds. Last opens with fake vinyl crackle, and grows into a piece full of swishy hats, punchy basses, and different sliding synth sounds. Harpie is a curiously pleasant piece full of harmonising synth sounds coming from different directions. This is clearly intended for very late night listening, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.
This album received poor reviews from critics, who saw through the pseudonym immediately and either missed the point that Moby was just trying to enjoy himself here, or saw this as the unchallenging, and somewhat homogenised album that it is. It’s nice – there’s nothing wrong with it at all – and it does entirely what it’s trying to do, and gives Moby a chance to express his creativity without being judged too harshly. Except, of course, everyone knew it was Moby anyway.
Closing the album is Synthesisers, with the British spelling, curiously. It warbles with deep pads and circling high notes, and lacks the huge beats of other tracks. It’s a beautiful closing track, somewhat unlike the rest of the album in that it’s quieter, gentler, and comes from a different place. I wonder if removing the beats from the rest of the album would have produced a better critical response?
So Baby Monkey might have just been a one-off side project for Moby,
You can still find Baby Monkey at all regular retailers.
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