The dead-of-night eeriness of the Soft Moon’s singles suggested Luis Vasquez was the dark horse in the Captured Tracks stable, and this self-titled full-length confirms it. Vasquez’s whispery vocals, lumbering basslines, shimmering guitars, and claustrophobic synths plunge into the ominous territory that the label’s founder, Mike Sniper, only suggests with his work as Blank Dogs; it’s also of a piece with the post-punk/coldwave revival spearheaded by France’s Weird Records. The Soft Moon opens with the most striking example of Vasquez’s modus operandi, the previous single “Breathe the Fire”: all serpentine vocals and rhythmic undertow, it’s very nearly as dark and nasty as the punk and post-punk death wishes that inspired him. From there, the album gets surprisingly abstract — Vasquez’s sonic palette is so firmly defined that at first it’s hard to recognize how misty some of these songs actually are. Above all, he prizes sinister atmospheres, and a significant chunk of The Soft Moon is comprised of instrumentals made all the more relentless by Krautrock-inspired lock grooves, as on the evocatively named “Sewer Sickness.” “Primal Eyes” and “Parallels,” meanwhile, boast electronics that would fit right in on a John Carpenter soundtrack. Vasquez knows his style and sticks to it, but whenever it feels like things might be getting too samey, tracks like “When It’s Over” add more melody to the album’s black hole density. And indeed, The Soft Moon takes listeners to some pretty scary places along its journey, from “Dead Love”’s wailing anguish to the doomy “Into the Depths.” Though Vasquez has mastered murky instrumentals, his protean pop songs feel the most promising. Along with “Breathe the Fire,” “Tiny Spiders”’ blend of driving rhythms with haunting distortion and “We Are We”’s almost industrial grind bring more form to his musical apparitions. While there’s no doubt Vasquez knows exactly what he’s doing, some more shape and balance would take the Soft Moon to another level.

Edited by BlackWhiteout on 7 Aug 2012, 15:31

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