Luis Vasquez’ music project The Soft Moon has made consistently compelling and visceral post-punk/darkwave albums for over a decade now. Starting out with mostly pulsating rhythms, jagged guitars, flanged bass lines, and icy synths, Vasquez made records that felt emotionally raw. Joy Division, Bauhaus, early Cure, and Nine Inch Nails were foundational bands for the Vasquez sound, but his percussive touches and his sometimes tribal sound put The Soft Moon in its own category.
From the self-titled to Zeros to Deeper to Criminal, each album revealed more of Vasquez, taking layers off his vocals and turning The Soft Moon into more of a singer/songwriter project than just a mostly minimalist post/punk dance project. In 2021 Luis Vasquez released A Body Of Errors under his own name, exploring personal trauma through industrial noise. Now, with Exister, he’s removed even more layers making his most consistent and revealing Soft Moon album to date.
Listening to Exister you hear touches of Trent Reznor and NIN. It was always there before, but Vasquez’ sound always leaned a little more into early Cure, dark wave, and club music. With Exister, not only does The Soft Moon reveal a more pop side with clear vocals firmly at the top of the mix, but even the music has a lighter touch. It’s still very much post/punk and industrial music, but there’s more of Vasquez here.
Album opener “Sad Song” is deliberate in its slow motion catharsis. It lets us know right away that Luis Vasquez isn’t hiding his voice under layers of effects and sonic haze. There’s a vulnerability we haven’t heard before. Soon enough though we’re thrust into a melange of synth blasts and industrial percussion with the urgent “Answers”. The hard edge returns, but with intention of healing not tearing apart. There is something truly cathartic here. “Face is Gone” is kinetic and menacing, with a tribal groove.
Elsewhere “Monster” has a melancholy to it, with touches of Depeche Mode and Love and Rockets. “Him” featuring Fish Narc has an early 80s vibe. Something you’d imagine hearing in some Berlin night club. Fish Narc’s vocals have a Falco sound to them. “Unforgiven” goes even darker with performance artist Alli Logout screaming throughout the heavy darkwave track.
While Exister is more of a singer/songwriter album for The Soft Moon, it doesn’t mean its any less intense. In fact, this may be the most intense album yet from Luis Vasquez’ music project. There’s a freedom in the directions he takes The Soft Moon here, and it feels as if this is a new beginning for the project.