The Soft Moon: The Soft Moon

This compelling full length debut of dark, panic-ridden minimalist sounds won’t let you go. It’s a claustrophobic thrill ride.

The Soft Moon

The Soft Moon

Label: Captured Tracks
US Release Date: 2010-11-16
UK Release Date: 2010-11-23
Label website

The Soft Moon is Luis Vasquez and The Soft Moon is his debut on Captured Tracks. The sound he purveys gels with the tastes of the man behind the label, Mike Sniper, who is also known musically as Blank Dogs. By this I mean that the Soft Moon plays a dark and minimal, synth-heavy, electronically-enhanced kind of pop with a lo-fi aesthetic. However, Vasquez edges more towards the instrumental or ambient side, eschewing typical song structure for exercises in poppy repetition and drone.

The Soft Moon obviously owes a lot to its krautrock and synth-rock influences, but it also fits in perfectly with the current moment. Though the sound has an expansive reach, it’s a small kind of music, made by one person alone. Being freed from the collaborative aspects of a band also takes this music away from the typical confines of the pop song. There’s more emphasis on repetition and layering. Instrumentation doesn’t stand out, vocals don’t matter; the music communicates a feeling.

All of the songs on this album are essentially versions of each other, but Vasquez always knows when to add a new layer, a new bit of sound, to make it interesting. Most tracks don’t really have coherent lyrics, just breathy vocal vamps to punctuate the sound here and there. The major mode of the Soft Moon is bass and the bare minimum of a beat (that gets elaborated with other percussion). Though these songs exist in time, they have that collage feel of aggregate parts pasted together and hanging there at once. So most of the tracks aren’t really songs. The album ends up resembling the score to a scary Road Warrior type film. The track “Out of Time”, for example, could actually show up on a spooky sounds compilation and not seem out of place. The high pitch-shifting synth is like a haunted cat squealing in the night.

Only three of 11 tracks resemble anything like a “proper” pop song, with verse and chorus structure (based on lyric or melodic difference). These songs structure the album like the beginning, middle, and end of a sentence. The highlight of these three "When It's Over" is also the major anomaly, having dreamy vocals over a guitar with vibrato. Not that this is a typical song; it opens up with a high pitched groan of pain. But it’s the closest Vazquez comes to an anthem -- if an anthem is draining and you can’t sing along to it. It’s more like a tip of the hat to the Soft Moon’s ‘80s British influence.

Album opener “Breathe the Fire” is like krautrock mixed with rockabilly (krautabilly?). Over a bass line that could be a Joy Division song that stands still inside of three notes, Vasquez whispers tonelessly but with a hint of pompadour, while a sickly bending note drones over the song. Whatever melodic component the song has comes in the staccato guitar notes that serve like a bridge outro to the song. Perhaps the most emblematic track is “Circles”: It has a queasy synth and a driving beat with reverb-washed percussion. The song comes in repeating layers that, whether voice or synth, work rhythmically rather than melodically to produce a dark trance state.

As I’m trying to describe the Soft Moon’s sound, I keep coming up with metaphors of sickness. The insistence of bass, guitar, and synth to hover between two notes brings to mind that kind of strange empty focus that comes with the pain of illness. But it’s not just me who thinks this way. Vazquez hints at it: “Sewer Sickness” winds itself into you head like a migraine, with a syncopated gasping vocal that could be a dry heave. This isn’t to say that the album makes you feel bad. Call it a flight into illness -- something about the album is otherworldly, not right, but inevitable; and like the worst illnesses it marks the time it takes with an irrevocable beckoning. There’s something about that time that makes it seem like it will never be over, and yet you will keep returning to it.


Kuinka appeal to ornery Renaissance royalty with a joyous song in their infectiously fun new music video.

With the release of Americana band Kuinka's Stay Up Late EP earlier this year, the quartet took creative steps forward to deftly expand their sound into folk-pop territory. Riding in on the trend of moves made by bands like the Head and the Heart and the National Parks in recent years, they've traded in their raw roots sound for a bit more pop polish. Kuinka has kept the same singalong, celebratory vibe that they've been toting all this time, but there was a fork in the sonic highway that they boldly took this go-around. In this writer's opinion, they succeeded in once again captivating their audience, just in a respectably newfound way.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.