By Jacob Katel
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You won't find wabi-sabi at your local sushi bar. Though it sounds like a spicy condiment, it's actually a Japanese worldview centered on acceptance of transience, and it's the way New York-based DJ, singer-songwriter, and producer Moby determines the aesthetic value of his recordings.
"When things are kind of broken down and entropy has entered the system, oftentimes things become more endearing and more sympathetic," he explains. "I kind of want to make noisy, endearing, broken-down records using old, broken-down pieces of equipment. I'm 45 years old, and I'm kind of a broken-down piece of equipment, so it makes sense to me."
That stands in contrast to Moby's 1999 pop-friendly album, Play, which incorporated loops of old, static-washed gospel and blues field songs with arrangements so impeccable the album became a breakout success, certified ten-times platinum. But the Moby of the early '90s was a producer of deep, tribal acid house, and he transitioned from Ecstasy-rich funky techno to aggro-industrial before hitting on the Play formula. From the very beginning, he loved a mangled analog synth bass line. And his upcoming full-length, Destroyed, encapsulates Moby's production initiative to show how "the familiar can sometimes be strange and disconcerting, and conversely the strange and disconcerting can sometimes be familiar."
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When DJing at events such as Ultra Music Festival, though, Moby confesses that old tendencies can supersede his respect for subtlety: "I tend to just play big, over-the-top, bombastic rave anthems as loud as possible. That either makes me complicated, schizophrenic, or hypocritical, I don't know."