Review Summary: The Hard Sun.
When the Soft Moon first came into the world (the project, not the guy), it was barely anything outstanding. Sure, by no means a bad effort, but not exactly something to reinvigorate people’s trust in darkwave revivalism. And to say that Luis Vasquez’s musicianship has changed or become a gold standard of quality will also be somewhat foolish. But what it can be commended for is that it stayed true to itself, releasing solid projects one after another with maybe only the most recent one, Deeper
, delving into even more industrial and electronic depths. That gave me hope that maybe we will eventually see some level of evolution and self-reinvention. So I am happy to report that Criminal
really isn’t a rehash of the same old story, but I am also sad to admit that it is a change for the unpleasant.
For one, Luis added a little more range to his vocals, which he only did every so often before. And together with the renewed and more danceable sound, they sound more frantic and distressed. Also, talking about the sound, it is miles denser and harshly technical than before. At times it even reminds more of an IDM record than a post-punk one.
And here we come to the biggest problem of the record. See, it’s not that it is directionless (it does hold up the dissonant insanity of a style it chose for itself fairly well), it is that the strange, morphed beatdown electro-punk route it takes just too often seems rather off-putting. The once prevalent darkwave roots still do shine through the magma of beats and harshness, but the said harshness still does prevail.
On paper, Criminal
is a perfectly okay album with a little more jarring edge to it than one would expect or desire. But upon listening to it and revisiting it, it evokes less and less enthusiasm with each new track and each new spin. The fundamentally unpleasant production and the inherently dismal atmosphere could be technically defined as a typical trait of a proper post-punk record. But even the most brooding post-punk act has a sense of melody and hidden beauty to it. Criminal
has shrilling instrumentation and forgettable tunes. It is no longer a “Soft Moon”, now it is the exact opposite, a bloody piercing sun.