Dusted Reviews

The Soft Moon - Zeros

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: The Soft Moon

Album: Zeros

Label: Captured Tracks

Review date: Oct. 23, 2012

Yeah, that title’s about right.

Luis Vasquez hit a real dinger with the release of his debut album as The Soft Moon, an icy and endlessly intriguing pull into the aural taxonomy of Goth and club industrial music, as far as those genres are recognized. Any point of the record could have been an outtake from some imaginary Siouxsie & The Banshees recording session in the 1980s, such was the specific nature of the music. You could tell it was made by someone who loves the music enough to allow his reverence for the form drive the undefinable qualities that bestow his work with all the phaser-driven intrigue and gloomy theatrics it’s known for. That record, and follow-up EP Total Decay, weren’t thinking outside of their respective boxes – they were hanging up Play Dead and Bauhaus posters on the insides of the box, and dragging in a futon mattress from the curb.

This can be a noble pursuit, and in the case of those records, Vasquez got over by following the unspoken, honor-bound code that all tribute artists should guide their craft against: to follow some form of truth towards what they represent with their own music. Failure to follow this rule doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad music, or that the person making it didn’t have the best intentions, but deep in the artwork’s core are hollow spots, places where the inspiration wears off, and its absence creates pockets of disbelief that work against the proceedings. Once you hear that, you can’t un-hear it. And up until now, it hasn’t been a problem The Soft Moon has had to face.

One thing that did catch most everyone’s attention about those earlier Soft Moon works was the relative absence of vocals, which Vasquez delivers in a breathy whisper. This bothered some critics, like Still Single’s Bob Claymore, and Pissed Jeans vocalist/Yellowgreenred blogger Matt Korvette, who went as far as to dub his own voice over a Soft Moon track. While these japes may seem like the writers are trying to undermine Vasquez’s approach (or even his person altogether), they also point out just how uncomfortable we can be made to feel by the lack of easily discernible vocalizing in the music we listen to, regardless of the language, as it relates to our understanding of pop music as a form. Vocals are a way that musicians can tell us how to feel about the song, and allow for counterpoint to a melody played on an instrument, or to the other voices in the arrangement. Maybe the lack of that key element in an otherwise worshipful formula makes us nervous. It makes the music sound more anonymous; it removes the most obvious aspect of personality in a song that we’re used to from the equation, tipping the scale back into the artist’s hand.

However, if the older Soft Moon records were missing a lead singer, then the sophomore album, Zeros, is missing a songwriter. Vasquez has assembled a live band to play these tracks in the studio and onstage, and their blustery industrial backing sounds crisp, tight, and immediate. In essence, they’ve made backing tracks for an early Cure record that Bob has yet to record his takes for, and knowing that he’s never going to show, they released it as-is.

It makes for an all-or-nothing situation. Every track on Zeros — every last one — seems written for optimal playback on iTunes, or for listening to an abridged audio sample on iTunes or Amazon. Ten- to 15-second snippets of anything here would be intriguing enough to make even an ardent Goth fan want to hear more, and any offering from the record would keep the pace on a properly-minded dance floor. If your attention span is only long enough that you have to jump through songs, you’re probably going to strike gold here, as the band gets every last detail down correctly.

But Vasquez doesn’t make the argument convincing enough to hide the fact that the entire record sounds unfinished, a few strokes away from an ace guitar or synth lead that isn’t so tightly welded to the rhythm, or a chorus that would turn these songs into anthems. As such, all these songs drown together, dissipating like wet Kleenex as soon as they’re done. I found myself focusing on the count for the single-note bass run on “Remember The Future,” trying to figure out how many times it would hit the same note before the change-up. Details like that are the most interesting aspects of Zeros.

By Doug Mosurock

Read More

View all articles by Doug Mosurock

Find out more about Captured Tracks

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.