The Soft Moon : Criminal

Luis Vasquez seems like a guy with a lot of torment. He seems like a guy with a lot of existential turmoil to unpack. His work as The Soft Moon is a discography of pain, anger, and dark thoughts wrapped in a tattered post-punk bow. The music is always based in rhythm and percussive sway, followed by industrial-grade Goth. Tribal, echoed rhythms backing flanged bass lines and nightmare melodies that would sound at home in some underground S&M club in gritty nightlife Berlin in the late 70s/early 80s. The first two records were nearly instrumental affairs with Vasquez’ voice occasionally peaking out from behind the shadows, heavily effected. But on 2015s excellent Deeper The Soft Moon emerged as more of a singer-songwriter project than it ever had before. Vasquez seemed to be trying to exorcise some ancient demons that he’d been carrying his whole life.

Now, The Soft Moon return with a new album called Criminal on Sacred Bones Records(the first for the New York label, with his previous albums released by Captured Tracks.) Criminal continues Vasquez’ exorcising of past demons. The album is dark, heavy, uninhibited, and recalls Trent Reznor’s most jagged and personal watershedding in NIN, as well as Robert Smith’s antagonizing of death and despair on albums like Faith and Pornography. Criminal is The Soft Moon’s heaviest and most earnest album yet.

When asked about his new album, Luis Vasquez said this, “Guilt is my biggest demon and has been following me since childhood. Everything I do strengthens the narrative that I am guilty” Vasquez reflects. “The concept of ‘Criminal’ is a desperate attempt to find relief by both confessing to my wrongdoings and by blaming others for their wrongdoings that have affected me.” With guilt as a jumping off point, “Burn” opens The Soft Moon’s new album with a healthy dose of industrial techno and self-hatred as Vasquez repeats the line “I can’t control myself” over and over again until he leads us into a soaring chorus(well, at least soaring for The Soft Moon.) The song is built with precision and steely perfection, building into a Wax Trax-like jubilation. “Choke” is slow and menacing. Vasquez covers his vocals in effects, like someone wearing a mask to cover their shame. Here, this might be more for show; The Soft Moon’s own morality play covered in Latin rhythms, nightlife hedonism, and electronic provocation. “Give Something” wavers in the air like a thick smoke. It brings to mind early Cure and darker Depeche Mode. “I don’t wanna lose my mind/that’s why I keep you so close” Vasquez sings over prickly synth lines and a melancholy bass line.

Elsewhere, “Like A Father” is an all-out techno fever dream. “Something’s got to give” and “You’re the ghost of my problem” are sung by a disjointed voice over a dance floor-ready club beat. “It Kills” brings to mind The Soft Moon’s fever dream of an album Zeros with its mix of mournful longing and syncopated desperation. “ILL” captures the claustrophobic doom of Aphex Twin while peppering the proceedings with Afro-Cuban rhythmic flair. Vasquez is a master builder of electronic walls of sound, as this track proves heartily. “Born Into This” is pushed along with industrial heft as machine gun blasts of percussion push the track into Suicide territory. “Criminal” pulls you into a cycle of regret and need for forgiveness.

There isn’t anybody making confessional music like The Soft Moon. Vasquez makes musical art that is immediate and all-encompassing. He creates a multi-emotional experience every time he puts out an album. A Soft Moon record wants to engage all the senses. You not only hear The Soft Moon’s music, but you can feel it. It’s a textural experience. Criminal is an album that wades in guilt; both deserved and self-inflicted. Whether or not Luis Vasquez finds some kind of closure remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s an engaging and visceral experience.

8.3 out of 10



The Soft Moon’s “Burn”

Luis Vasquez, aka The Soft Moon, has a new album coming out in February. It’s called Criminal and what I’ve heard of it tells me that it could be one of my favorite records of 2018. Each album he puts out becomes both more accessible and harsher. From the first self-titled record which felt almost like an instrumental record at times to Zeros in 2012, Vasquez went into more of an early NIN direction. He mixes South American percussive vibes with dark industrial sensibility. He pushes the envelope when it comes to his sound and the visual aspect of both the album art and his live presentation.

His last album, the excellent Deeper in 2015, Vasquez seemed to have had a breakthrough with his sound. He made a very personal record, giving Deeper a more singer/songwriter feel.

Instead of a guy with an acoustic guitar it was a guy with a synthesizer and industrial beats.

Criminal, The Soft Moon’s first album with Sacred Bones(having released with Captured Tracks for the past few years) sounds like a perfect meshing of everything that came before. The first two singles, “Burn” and “It Kills” are primo darkwave/industrial. Sweaty, dense, propulsive and caffeinated like a late night coffee session in a lousy diner after an evening of slam dancing in an underground club.

Check the songs out below and look for this one in February of 2018 on Sacred Bones Records(home of John Carpenter, yo!) I already preordered the special edition vinyl cause that’s what I do.


John Carpenter : Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998

I believe we’ve entered the John Carpenter renaissance. Five years ago the man was on the bitter end of a film career that had seen better days. To those in the know the man was and is a filmmaking icon. His subtle nuances, patient tension building, exquisite camera work, and of course his film scoring has gone on to inform and influence the genre of horror for the last 40 years. But by the mid-90s his films were suffering from both lack of creative source material and from the man’s own creative burnout. In later interviews Carpenter sounded fed up and tired of the whole industry. It seemed one of our greats had hung it up for good.

Then something sort of amazing happened: A younger generation of talented filmmakers began paying homage to the man thru their own films. Guys like Nicolas Winding Refn, Adam Wingard, David Robert Mitchell, and Jeff Nichols were putting out amazing films like Drive, The Guest, It Follows, and Midnight Special that had obvious visual and soundtrack nods to the “Master Of Horror”. The guy that seemed to have been put to the side in favor of schlocky horror and cheap thrills was finally getting the respect he deserved. Somewhere in there Carpenter began recording albums with his son and Godson. Those albums were Lost Themes and Lost Themes II. He toured for those albums as well and seemed to have found that creative spark once again.

John Carpenter, along with his current collaborators Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, have returned to the recording studio to create Anthology: 1974-1998. Where the Lost Themes albums were music pieces that never got used in Carpenter’s films, Anthology is reimaginings of John Carpenter’s most beloved scores. The result is a striking look at just how diverse an artist Carpenter truly is.

If you happened to pick up Carpenter’s single series thru Sacred Bones a couple of years ago then you already have an idea of the serious cool collected on this LP. That series had the themes from Assault On Precinct 13, The Fog, Halloween and Escape From New York. They’re all included here, but we’re also treated to the rocking “In The Mouth Of Madness”, which has some all-out guitar crunch. There’s a Dokken/Queensryche feel in the metal-ish vibe. “Porkchop Express(Big Trouble In Little China)” also has a strutting 80s rock swagger, complete with DX-7 synth fun going on. You can almost see an aged and grizzled Jack Burton(Kurt Russell) driving down the highway in his big rig looking for new adventures as this one plays. “They Live” is a little bluesy and a little late night jazz, with both some serious blues harp and moody guitar.

Though there’s some mildly dated rock mojo here, I think these versions fit the films and the characters that reside in those films rather well. Carpenter and crew also take a stab at Ennio Morricone’s excellent “The Thing”. He turns it into a dread-filled slow synth burn. This one is great. “Starman” is another big surprise here. It’s sweeping keys and melancholy vibe are quite stunning. It’s an underrated piece(as well as an underrated film, too.) “Dark Star” puts me in mind of current day synth wizards like Videodrones and Slasher Film Festival Strategy. It may be updated, but it still holds a nostalgic vibe to those early 70s. “Prince Of Darkness” is all Gothic stabs and dread-filled synths.

One of the big highlights is “Christine”, which sounds like it could’ve come off a new S U R V I V E album. John Carpenter shows why he truly is the “Master” on this track. Rock guitar comes rolling in and the song almost morphs into something resembling “Moving In Stereo” morphed into 80s Tangerine Dream.

John Carpenter sounds like a guy renewed and reinvigorated. His work on these albums over the last two years show a man with a newfound passion for creating. Anthology : 1974-1998 is further proof that you can’t keep a good man down.

8.1 out of 10