Now here's some pretty trippy -ish... Spark up to this one and enjoy
The Soft Moon - Zeros
Captured Tracks / CT-165 / CD
MP3 V0 (VBR)
01. It Ends (1:51)
02. Machines (2:46)
03. Zeros (4:39)
04. Insides (4:01)
05. Remember The Future (3:23)
06. Crush (3:58)
07. Die Life (3:36)
08. Lost Years (4:36)
09. Want (3:38)
10. sdnE tI (1:51)
After recording his 2010 self-titled Soft Moon debut alone in his home, Oakland multi-instrumentalist Luis Vasquez put together a band, got some appropriately dark visuals, and went on tour. Then he holed up and recorded the 2011 Total Decay EP, again by his lonesome. A year later, you might think he'd bring along his road-tested band for the sophomore album, Zeros, but no, he stuck to the same process outside of a solitary trip to Monte Vallier's Ruminator Audio studio after six months of arranging the record in his apartment.
All of Vasquez's material's been darkly enveloping and fuzzed-out, but with Zeros you can hear him projecting to an audience. He has such a specific vision that, in the same way Total Decay felt like a heavier, more nihilistic extension of The Soft Moon, Zeros comes together like a swarming continuation of Total Decay's suffocating goth-tinged synth-driven post-punk. You get krautrock's motorik rhythms and Suicide's bleak nihilism in poppier form.
In general, the Soft Moon are less song-based, more sound-based and image-based (in an earlier incarnation, visual artist Ron Robinson was considered part of the band). That said, each collection features a couple of dark-hearted anthems: On The Soft Moon it was "Out of Time" and closer "Tiny Spiders", on Total Decay it was the swirling, heaving title track. Here we have the taunting, spiraling "Machines", the mid-tempo Joy Division-as-dream-pop of "Insides", the shuffling, deeply percussive title track, and the pulsing, appropriately titled "Die Life". Comparisons to the Soft Moon's previous material are hard to avoid, but it's also difficiult to cite diminishing returns because Vasquez is so consistent. (At all levels: The debut was released toward the end of November. Total Decay came out on Halloween. This one, fittingly, came out on Hell Night. The message here: This is fall music.)
Vasquez's knack for atmosphere was there from the beginning, but he's becoming a better, more defined songwriter. Even scene-setting instrumentals like the driving "Remember the Future" seem to have more shape. Interestingly, despite looking outward, he's submerged his louder vocals deeper into the mix, offering them as another instrument, not the upfront howl of a "lead singer." We get whispers, soft shouts, distant screams, heavy breathing, and it helps to create a dense, hermetic whole.
The last song on Zeros, "ƨbnƎ ƚI", bookends (and mirrors) the howling, apocalyptic opener "It Ends". In interviews, Vasquez's said he wanted to make one more album by himself before expanding to a full-band recording. This is that final solo album. It'll be curious to see what happens if he does decide to open up the laboratory and welcome in his supporting cast. The claustrophobic intensity of the current one-man format could lessen, but his songwriting skills are stronger now than they were two years ago and his aesthetic's deep enough that there's probably room enough for more people in those shadows.
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