The Soft Moon: Deeper

If the Soft Moon's techno-mope isn't exactly authentic, it's certainly genuine and most definitely consistent on Deeper.

The Soft Moon


Label: Captured Tracks
US Release Date: 2015-03-31
UK Release Date: 2015-03-30

Western society is busier than it has ever been before. It is also more overwhelmed with options, from which television show you stream to which flavor of Oreos you buy. It's easy to ascertain why condensed, encapsulated experiences would in many cases be appreciated. Why take the time to weed through the wine list when you can simply order a flight?

This desire for expedition and efficiency has to be the primary explanation for the appeal of, not to mention acclaim for, the Soft Moon's music. The band, whose sole permanent member is Luis Vasquez, is adroit at fitting all the sounds, textures, touchstones, and emotions of dark '80s post-punk music into sub-40 minute albums. Vasquez is probably like everyone who spent their high school years locked in their bedroom with Closer and Pretty Hate Machine, only now the means exist to translate that experience into music relatively easily and cheaply. If the Soft Moon's techno-mope isn't exactly authentic, it's certainly genuine and most definitely consistent.

Deeper follows in virtual lockstep with Vasquez' self-titled 2010 debut and 2012 follow-up Zeros. In a deliberate attempt to isolate himself and render himself more emotionally vulnerable than ever, the California-based Vasquez decamped alone to Italy, where he eventually hooked up with producer Maurizio Baggio to record Deeper. Despite the change in scenery, the results are the same intense, fraught, pretty/ugly postpunk mishmash as ever.

Vasquez has said with Deeper he concentrated more on composition and gave Baggio more license over the sounds and programming. This has resulted in a thicker, marginally richer sound that is even more tense, wrought, and often more bombastic than before. However, the asphyxiated, flanged-out guitars, often with the bass taking the lead; buzzing, siren-like synths; and treated, monosyllabic vocals are still what the Soft Moon is all about.

While all of this is effective, it is not affecting. The one oasis of beauty here is not the stark piano ballad "Feel" (cf. Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt"), but rather the sullen, grinding chasm of "Wasting". Giving in to unhappiness completely and without abandon can provide its own sort of catharsis, and Vasquez reaches it here. Not coincidentally, it's the one track where is voice is neither whispered nor treated, and it hits the sweet sad spot like a lost track from Tears for Fears' The Hurting.

Every track on Deeper has at least one antecedent in the post-punk/alt/goth pantheon. There's the searing robotics of "Wrong" (cf. Joy Division's "She's Lost Control", any number of tracks from Skinny Puppy), the big, sinewy rock of "Being" (cf. The Chameleons, Bauhaus), and the massive analog synth of "Black" (cf. Cabaret Voltaire, the Normal). This time out, though, Vasquez seems particularly focused on the Cure's 1980-82 output. Single "Far" sounds so much like Pornography it should have Robert Smith on the line to his lawyer.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with paying tribute to your influences by flaunting them, especially when your influences have left such a legacy of great music. The problem is that, three albums in now, Vasquez has shown little interest in or ability to add anything fresh, unique, or challenging to anyone who has had their world rocked by "God's Gift Maggot" or "New Day".

Worse, though, Deeper's title is rendered ironic by Vasquez' lyrics, which are shockingly full of clichés and stock phrases. "I was born to suffer / It kills me inside", he laments, and later, "All I am is flesh and bone". He's "falling and can't stop"; he's "sinking slowly deeper", but he "hope[s] to one day understand". What is mean to be a soul-bearing confession instead comes across like a ninth grader's diary... or Trent Reznor's discard pile.

As a pure listening experience, Deeper, like all of the Soft Moon's albums, delivers a lot of musical history in a short, sharp capsule. It will sound great in the club or in the car. But it doesn't get much deeper than that. There are times, when you just want a nice, rich, and unique glass of wine.


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