Review Summary: This is a monolith with a buzzing pulse...
Lying alone in bed at night I often get an odd feeling of deja vu
associated with remembrance of past lovers who use to sleep besides me, of old pillows now too flat and drool stained to use, and of layers of blankets that gradually peel away as the seasons get warmer and warmer. Comparable to how an amputee feels a phantom limb; a piece of myself is now gone yet it still has feeling and I can still sense its presence besides me. I just finished listening to “The Soft Moon”
while in bed, and now I’m trying to recollect what I had just experienced; me put into the position of the amputee and this album acting as the severed limb. Even though I cannot connect the names to the songs, and even though I cannot recall any melodies in particular, I do
recall the slow burning shades of emotions that run the gambit on this album. I’m left in a haze of clouded recollection, trying to sort out the paradox of how an album can permeate such a sort of cold warmth. Maybe it’s too early to tell, but excuse me as I make a candidate out of “The Soft Moon”
for one of the best albums of the year.
“The Soft Moon”
is a watershed of influences gathered from the tail end of underground music in the late 80’s. Post-punk ethics are to be found in the rhythm section while the other instruments explore the terrain of post-rock, all of which is guided by the shoegazer perspective of form and texture. The entire spectrum of “post-whateverness”
is captured here, and surprisingly, all by the ambitions of sole member Louis Vasquez. It’s an impressive feat, considering the full and warm sound of the record and the sheer variety in instrumental styles and vocals. Lyrics are essentially unimportant, for the vocals are ghostly, distorted whispers spoken softly through a desk fan in the middle of an abandoned factory. Instead, the responsibility of story telling is placed solely on the instruments; each sounding tragic and tortured and each having some sense of personality about them.
Album opener “Breathe the Fire” leads one to assume that this will be a rather standard affair; another tribute to the desolate sounds of Joy Division reinterpreted and ready to be deemed “groundbreaking” by the less informed listener. However, introductions can often be misleading as “Circles” takes us to a different realm entirely. Disturbed darkness ala’
The Residents is pushed forward by a krautrock chug and mutilated by metallic washes of guitar noise. Before the album’s heart can freeze entirely from the coldness of these songs we’re given the romantic duo of “When It’s Over” and ‘Dead Love”. From the sweet and sincere vocals and reverberated arpeggios of the former (bringing to mind the beautiful work of Sigur Rós), to the shoegazer mayday siren cries of the latter, the album enters a wonderful
shift in mood in effort to escape monotony. Similar attempts are equally successful, such as in the harsher sounding buzz of “We are We” and the Can-esc “Sewer Sickness”. Breaking up impressions in this manner only go to benefit this album mostly shrouded in vagueness.
The crux to the weakness of this album though is how the songs placed between the obvious “choice picks” are lost to forgetfulness so easily. Vasquez doesn’t worry himself too much with crafting melodies that leave a lasting impression, but instead, simply pleasant melodies that help to elevate the moods and texture of his songs. It’s not necessarily a bad technique as it is one that will need much refining in the future if he hopes to pen a classic that I’m certain he is capable of. Despite all of the nostalgic leanings, I’m impressed the most by how the band captures the essence of the production that made bands such as Joy Divison and The Bauhaus so memorable without sounding dated. Most people are so very fond of nostalgia, especially when it returns to us with the joyous sense of being a new experience; me included.
As I finish up this review in hopes that attention will be brought to this new debut release, I turn off the lights and prepare myself to experience “The Soft Moon”
once again; an album that takes you on a lonesome New York City subway ride in the dew laden hours of the morning. This is a monolith with a buzzing pulse, and I plan to join it in this state of paradox in just a few moments of futile attempts to keep my eyes open.