Not Enough Room In My Head

Sometimes it takes awhile for an album to find it’s rightful spot in my brain. It’s not necessarily a “grower” kind of album, as it may immediately be catchy and enjoyable, but sometimes there’s just not enough room in my head for those songs to live and breathe. Or maybe I may not be in the right emotional spot to really dig what’s coming at me at that moment. Or maybe five albums hit in one week and I didn’t really have enough table time with a record so it gets shelved prematurely. The latter is sadly usually the case. That’s the case for Craft Spells’ Nausea, anyways.

I first got into Craft Spells back in 2012 when I heard their Captured Tracks debut Idle Labor. That year I found myself in the throes of a pretty heavy shoegaze/dream pop/post-punk bender and Captured Tracks were putting out all the fixes I needed for that musical addiction. Idle Labor seemed to be this mix of early 80s sounds; stuff you would’ve heard on early Depeche Mode, New Order, IRS, and 4AD releases that your big brother tried hiding from you. Craft Spells, aka Justin Vallesteros, was mining some pretty heavy hitters in order to create his own version of those essential records that came out prior to Reagan’s second term. For me, there was this air of upbeatedness(I trademarked this word last week, btw) that I loved. Vallesteros played all the instruments and his voice was a smooth tenor that delivered these pop-centric tunes with an air of maturity. You felt like you had found some lost album from the neon era, as opposed to some young turk that rummaged through his parents old college records and made his own version.

Fast forward to 2014 and the release of Craft Spells Nausea. 2014 was a crazy year for me. Not like bad crazy or anything, but just crazy. The wife got a new job where she was traveling quite a bit, so I was home with the kids in the summer a lot while mom was down in North Carolina and Kentucky. I’d discovered Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, which took up many of my afternoons of working out and mowing the lawn, and it was generally a pretty great year for music in my world. The War On Drugs, Real Estate, The Night Terrors, Jakob Skott, Jonas Munk, and a bevy of other heavy hitters put out some of my favorite albums of that year. I preordered the Captured Tracks limited edition version of Nausea when I saw it come up for sale, since I’m weak-kneed when it comes to phrases like “limited edition”, “special edition”, “preorder”, and “limited quantities”. The album arrived and I listened to it a couple times, enjoying it, but then it just sort of got pushed to the side as more goodness showed up in the mail. It eventually made its way into the vault where it sat for nearly three years…until now.

At work on a whim I found Nausea on one of those streaming music sites the kids are always talking about and listened to it whilst doing work things. With the whole job situation getting increasingly stressful I needed something to pull me out of it all. Opening track “Nausea” is this easy, breezy, and calming track that feels like a cross between Alan Parsons Project and OMD on tranquilizers. It has a slow motion quality to it that pulls you into its world. Vallesteros’ voice is really quite perfect for this kind of musical trip. He has an Eric Woolfson thing going on, but without all the melancholy. This track never hit me quite like it has lately. “Komorebi” keeps that vibe going to stunning effect. One of the biggest changes from Idle Labor to Nausea is that Vallesteros has replaced his “guy recording by himself” M.O. with a full band scenario in the studio and it suits him perfectly. There’s a real 70s quality to this album. “Komorebi” is this lush, dreamy track that has the sonic heft of Steely Dan with the wistful vibes of something I can’t quite put my finger on. “Dwindle” sounds like The Smiths in their latter years, before it all came to an end. Vallesteros isn’t quite the drama queen that Morrissey is, but he creates plenty of mood to go on. “Twirl” is a fun little number that grooves and shakes like Tigermilk-era Belle and Sebasitian. It’s a perfect summer day kind of song. “Breaking the Angle Against the Tide” has a bit of that old, dream pop vibe that Craft Spells lived in on Idle Labor, but with a lusher, fuller sound. It’s a great mixture of the musical worlds Justin Vallesteros loves to create in. “Still Fields(October 10, 1987)” is the piano-driven closer. For me, this hints at what Vallesteros could do in the future, which would be film scoring. It has such a cinematic feel to it. It’s quiet, emotive, and full of feeling. I could see this playing over the beginning or ending of a film. Perfect outro music, really.

I’m glad music works on us the way it does. We can’t force it to fit our emotional needs when it’s convenient for us. Sometimes it takes awhile to sink in. Craft Spells’ Nausea wasn’t meant to move me back in 2014. It was meant to move me in 2017. It’s a lush and beautiful album that’s subtle in its impact. It’s my go-to record in the mornings at work now. It silences the noise of frustration and lets me get to it.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

 

Chris Cohen : As If Apart

Chris Cohen is a guy that has offered up his musical skills to many over the last 15 years or so. Deerhoof, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, and Cass McCombs are just a fewcohen of the many musical worlds Cohen has delved in over the years. But not until his Captured Tracks debut, Overgrown Path in 2012, have we truly heard and seen how good this guy is. That album felt like a time capsule to some imaginary time in the late-60s/early-70s where Chris Cohen possibly rubbed shoulders with Ray Davies, Leonard Cohen, The Walker Bros, and the Zombies. His style is melody-driven but with quirky twists and turns; jazzy drums and off-kilter guitar mix it up with Bill Evans-like piano structure Cohen’s whispered, monotone vocals. It’s as if every song Cohen is going to start singing The Kinks’ “End Of The Season”.

Chris Cohen’s new album As If Apart is a sublime, melancholy collection of fractured pop songs about hearts breaking and times changing. It showcases Cohen’s ability to build an entire universe of endless beaches and never ending sunrises that trade the romantic for the tragic and heavy-hearted. It’s a beautiful album that should appeal to anyone who’s ever sat alone late at night and wondered “I wonder what they’re doing now?”

“Torrey Pine” cascades along in the slightly psychedelic and breezy winds of jazzy complexity and self evaluation. Cohen is a hell of a musician. His strength is in rhythm and groove, and both are present in spades on this opening track. There’s a stoned sigh that permeates the track throughout. Title track “As If Apart” opens with a driving beat and dissonant chords before piano comes in and adds an element of Vince Guaraldi to the mix that makes the song float along a bummer buzz. If you’re familiar with guys like Mac Demarco and Alex Calder(fellow Captured Tracks alumni), then you’re aware of that grainy, lo fi-ish quality of their music. Cohen seems to adopt that feel, but unlike those two Canadian cats Cohen knows how to tune his instruments. His musicianship is strong and capable which gives these songs a dated yet timeless quality. Like a master songwriter/musician that got lost in the shuffle of time that was recently discovered in some vault somewhere. “Drink from a Silver Cup” is low key, downbeat sad sack lament. Great harmonies and phased guitar push this song along gently. You may forget about “Memory” once it’s done playing but after you revisit a few times it will reveal its subtle beauty and genius. Ray Davies lives among the spaces between the notes. Jim Noir also comes to mind as this song plays along, his Tower of Love album in-particular. “In A Fable” has the swing and drive of the Zombies “Tell Her No”, but without all the pomp and circumstance. It’s a simply beautiful track with lyrics like “Every afternoon/You set your stuff down on the table/I wonder what you’re up to now/Father isn’t able” and “But the day’s almost over/It’s been a long time/That love’s no longer mine/But it’s still yours/In a fable”. “Sun Has Gone Away” is a beautiful piano-heavy track that would’ve fit just right on Something Else by the Kinks. It also brings to mind Procol Harum’s heartbreaking “A Salty Dog”(if you’re not familiar with that song you need to be.) “Yesterday’s On My Mind” ends the album with an acoustic-driven vibe. An existential sigh. Resolute to move on, no matter how it hurts.

Chris Cohen has made a sweeping, folksy, and fractured break up record. It’s not dour or a downer, though. Instead, it’s just a musical cure for a broken heart. It’s a page out of the Ray Davies songbook, but interpreted by a talented sad sack named Chris Cohen. As If Apart is beautiful musical statement that’s saying “It’s gonna be all right, buddy. But it’s gonna hurt first.”

8.3 out 10

 

Wild Nothing : Life of Pause

I’ve been smitten with Jack Tatum ever since I heard “Nocture” back in 2012. Such beauty and bittersweet melodies in that song. I knew right then that this Tatum fellow knew how to turn emotional dials with the magic that is music. He was also tapping into my childhood growing up in the early 80s. All those echos of pop radio from the Reagan-era were present on Wild Nothing’s Nocturne, which put me in a time machine every time I spun that record. Vocally Tatum was on-point. His vocals were there, but not as a lead instrument. They were more part of the overall mix. A ghostly melody hovering in the air. Another instrument, really. He never seemed to want to be upfront and in the spotlight. That record seemed like the creation of someone that loves the process as much as the result. And going back and listening to Gemini and The Golden Haze EP that came before I could hear the progression of a guy figuring out who the hell he was with every album. Throw in that wonderful curve ball, the quirky and arty Empty Estate EP from 2013, and it was clear Wild Nothing was a project constantly evolving and re-imagining itself.

Now we have Life of Pause, Wild Nothing’s newest musical affair. Once again Jack Tatum reinvents the band he started in a college dorm room, but not in the way you’d expect. Instead of turning away from the pop sensibilities and heading in a more obscure and arty direction, Tatum has embraced those pop aspects of his music and magnified them. Life of Pause is a rich, bright, and all-encompassing pop album that moves freely between both radio friendly and late night college rock.

Tatum’s musical inspirations run far and deep, which makes a Wild Nothing album something to behold. His newest opus opens with the rather breathtaking baroque pop of “Reichpop”, a nod to both the songs that keep you company on lonely drives at night and the legendary minimalist composer Steve Reich. Opening with the repetitive lines of marimba sounding much like Reich’s own “Music For 18 Musicians”, the track opens up into this lovely and warm pop confection. While Nocturne had those pop sensibilities down pat, there was the feeling of solitude; the vibe of being shut off from the outside world. “Reichpop” seems to have opened the windows and doors in Jack Tatum’s world and is letting the light in. “Lady Blue” sounds like an off-kilter b-side from Reach The Beach-era Fixx. “A Woman’s Wisdom” sounds to me like what John Lennon may have been dabbling in a year or two after Double Fantasy had the universe allowed it. Now I don’t know if Jack Tatum had been listening to Wire’s Chairs Missing during the writing process, but “Japanese Alice” really puts me in mind of their exquisite “Outdoor Miner”. This is the jangliest track I’ve heard from Wild Nothing and I would love to hear more. Title track “Life of Pause” is pure 80s pop perfection. Listening to this song, as well as the whole of Life of Pause, I’m reminded of early 80s David Bowie. Going back and revisiting those records(Let’s Dance, Tonight, and Never Let Me Down) after Bowie’s passing I was reminded of just how good those records were. Tatum does something similar in that he makes incredible pop music but doesn’t make it thin and tinny. He gives his music such depth and layers it perfectly. Is Life of Pause Wild Nothing’s Let’s Dance? It’s not totally off to say it is.

With a musical collaboration list that includes Peter Bjorn and John’s drummer John Eriksson and the best guitarist you’ve never heard of, Medicine’s Brad Laner, Life of Pause is sonically rich and densely complex for a pop record. Here is a pop record for people that don’t think they like pop. It’s also for people that love pop music and have never heard of Steve Reich. Jack Tatum keeps bridging those musical gaps, one tremendous album after another.

9.2 out of 10

 

Diiv : Is The Is Are

Diiv tapped into that wandering soul we all have buried deep down(some deeper than others) back in 2012 when they gave us their bigdiiv and dreamy debut Oshin. Guitars swelled in waves of reverb, as did pretty much everything else, as Zachary Cole Smith sang songs like he was lost in thought while emoting into the microphone. For being a straightforward alternative guitar rock record, Oshin was a pretty stunning affair. It took Smith nearly four years to follow-up that debut. Between personal issues, band issues, and wanting to change things up stylistically it seemed that maybe that sophomore effort may never happen. Fortunately Smith and his bandmates got back on track and have finally given us the 17-track opus Is The Is Are.

That stylistic change Zachary Cole Smith had discussed in the years leading up to Is The Is Are really didn’t come about, and that’s evident in the opening seconds of “Out Of Mind”. Clean and crisp guitar, bass, and drums roll in as Cole’s vocals melt into the background of a song that sounds like early R.E.M. “Under The Sun” keeps things going along those early 80s alternative lines, albeit feeling more upbeat than usual. If you were looking for the first great guitar album of the year, Is The Is Are delivers. Jangly guitar weaves in and out of driving bass lines while the drums keep everything in line. “Bent(Roi’s Song)” is where the darkness that permeates Smith’s world shows through a bit. “I saw you with a very loose grip on your tight ship/And I left you with a very big mess then I watched it progress” Smith sings over squealing guitar and a loping bass line. There’s an aloofness to the vocals that gives the song an almost ghostly feel. I don’t know what sort of personal issues the guy’s got, but it’s pretty obvious he’s working some of them out here. “Dopamine” pushes and pulls along with the vigor of classic Cure. “Blue Boredom(with Sky Ferreira)” is the breathy and dark collaboration between Diiv and Zachary Cole Smith’s girlfriend. It’s arty, sexy stuff that would’ve been just at home on Ferreira’s album is it is here.

From this point on, it’s sort of the same throughout. I think as a single record Is The Is Are would’ve been a future classic. Once you get about three quarters the way through you feel the desperation in the air. It’s as if once the record ends Smith thinks he’s going to disappear into the ether, so he just keeps piling on the songs. Unfortunately for a double LP to truly work there needs to be some variety in sound and vision. There needs to be a narrative of flow or you end up feeling like you just heard a single LP twice, as opposed to a single, long vision.  There’s not a bad song here. They’re all good, but there’s not much variety when you get down to it. It’s a continuous sigh for an hour, with the occasional hint of light. “Valentine” is a cool and foreboding, while “Yr Not Far” sounds like some of that classic Captured Tracks fare. “Is The Is Are” is a driving title track that brings krautrock kings NEU! to mind, while album closer “Waste Of Breath” feels like an empty shrug to someone’s plea to get better. It’s all good, but can be draining in one full hour listening session.

I don’t blame Diiv for going for it here. I’m not going to fault any artist for being ambitious. Who knows when or if you’ll get another chance to make your mark. Is The Is Are is a great album. I think it may have been even greater pared down to 11 or 12 songs. A little self-editing can go a long way.

7.7 out of 10

 

 

sun less sea

Over the years I’ve grown an affinity for shoegaze music. When it made its presence known back in the late 80s and earlyIMG_0797 90s I didn’t get it. That was essentially my high school years and I was too busy listening to Rush, hair metal, and speed metal to be concerned with a bunch of mopey Brits staring at the floor as swirls of distortion and reverb filled the space around them. One of my really good friends did buy My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. I think he saw a video on 120 Minutes and felt compelled to purchase it. From what I remember I thought it sounded like white noise. “Where’s the guitar solo?” “Where’s the ballad?” Where’s the breakneck tempo changes and stories based on Ayn Rand novels?” Yes, these were actual thoughts in my head at the time.

So needless to say, shoegaze wasn’t my bag at the age of 17 years old.

Fast forward to 2006 and on a whim I ordered Loveless from Amazon. I’d read a few articles about the making of the record and had gotten a keen interest in the debacle and madness that went into creation of such a noisy album. Turns out I had to grow up a bit to find some angst in middle age to appreciate the music called shoegaze(this happened with me and NIN as well. In 2005 after years of not caring for Trent Reznor, all of a sudden NIN clicked for me. Thanks middle age and parenthood. Thanks responsibility.) Now, I did quite like Lush back in the day. Their album Spooky played quite a bit in my 1977 Chevy Nova, but I think the pop and melanchoy aspects appealed to my teenage dystopia more than anything.

Anyways, back to the relative present.

In 2012 I discovered the New York record label Captured Tracks. I found many bands to love that year on that label; The Soft Moon, Wild Nothing, Diiv, and Thieves Like Us to name a few. Perusing their website I found a section called Shoegaze Archives. This was a group of sorta forgotten, lesser known shoegaze bands from the early 90s and Captured Tracks reissued some of their seminal records. Medicine was one that I discovered on there. I ended up ordering both albums Captured Tracks reissued of theirs(as well as buying both of their reunion albums in 2013 and 2014.) They’re now one of my absolute favorite bands, and I’ve interviewed their singer/guitarist/songwriter Brad Laner twice. Super nice guy and an absolute studio wizard. Anyways, another band I discovered on there was Half String. Now the idea is that most of the great shoegaze bands come from the UK, and I’d say the vibe of shoegaze certainly originated across the pond. But I would also argue that there are a few US bands that took that idea and, while not improving it, gave the genre a unique twist. Medicine was a California band, while Half String came from Phoenix, Arizona. Not the mecca you’d imagine that would inspire the love of overwhelming noise and atmosphere, but listening to their excellent Maps For Sleep record you’d be hard pressed to imagine this band coming from anywhere but Manchester, UK.

Half String’s music is decidedly more low key, down tempo than say MBV, Ride, Catherine Wheel, or the aforementioned Medicine. Their music sounded more like The Cure in lilting form. Lots of heavy reverb, chorused guitars, and sadsack vocals courtesy of singer/guitarist Brandon Capps. Now if you’re not a fan of melancholy, sadsack, heavily reverbed music, then maybe this isn’t for you. Maybe this world isn’t for you, as melancholy and sadsack are two things this world is about. So go take your happy, good times music elsewhere, pal. We’re all about moping and staring at the floor. Sorry, something came over me. I’m not quite sure what it was. Maybe the spirit of overwhelming doom, sculpted into a wall of beautiful noise? Or I just haven’t had enough coffee.

The songs on Maps For Sleep are what you’d imagine them to be: big, lush, cavernous reverb, and plenty of jangly guitar. Vocals are of the sleepy variety, while the drums have that dance-y “Madchester” feel to them. First track “Eclipse” has a dance vibe while still feeling overwhelmingly downbeat. It’s like a sigh put to music. I think the DNA that went into bands like Diiv and Wild Nothing’s music definitely derived from a record like Maps For Sleep. Title track “Maps For Sleep” opens quietly and then has a nice build-up, revving up to some big emotional release. That Fender single coil guitar sound is in full swing here. The song slows down a bit before getting back in full swing with some Robin Guthrie-like guitar noise. Speaking of Guthrie, Cocteau Twins must’ve made a big impression on Half String as those dreamy swirls of delay and chorused guitar echo some Cocteau love for sure.

So this album isn’t breaking new ground, and honestly there are far better shoegaze and dream pop records out there. For me I just love the love and time that was put into reissuing this album by Captured Tracks. They took a band that was seemingly lost in the overwhelming wave of 90s alternative bands and gave them a little bit of the spotlight they deserved. It’s a better-than-average shoegaze album, with some great moments of musical grandeur dispersed throughout. There is also a second LP included with several songs that were never released for public consumption that show the potential for greatness that was there. I think singer/guitarist was said to have a shoebox filled with 56 tunes he never put out, and these bonus tracks were culled from those songs. Pretty cool stuff.

Half String’s Maps For Sleep reissue is well worth checking out. A great shoegaze band that never quite got the recognition they deserved. Thanks to Captured Tracks, and the internet, they may have gotten a bit of that recognition now. At the very least they sold a record to this guy right here.

IMG_0796

When Tuesday Throws Rain At The Beach

Here I am, on a perfectly warm and non-moist day and I’m sitting inside writing and listening to music. Shouldn’t I be outside? Shouldn’t I want to be outside, slinging dirt or digging holes or pulling weeds or something? It seems like I should be anyways. Truth be told, I spent four hours outside yesterday doing just that. Raking, digging, chopping, pulling up dead bushes and transplanting live ones in their places. By the time I was done I felt I’d been used as a kick bag by Van Damme(the 1987 version of Van Damme, that is.) Today, when I rise from my chair it’s quite a feat. And kneeling and bending my legs causes great discomfort and pain. My hamstrings and glutes feel like I ran a marathon yesterday. It’s amazing what yard work can do to a fella.

So yeah, I’m taking it easy today. Tomorrow after work will be more of that physical labor. I’ve got dirt, landscape timbers, and mulch to lay out, then onto the next big thing. Until then though, I’ll sit here and listen to some music. What am I listening to? Oh, well actually it’s Listen Like Thieves’ Berlin Alex. Who’s that, you say? Well, let me explain.

Back in late 2012 and 2013 I’d discovered the record label Captured Tracks. A Brooklyn-based record label run by Mike Sniper. Sniper and Captured Tracks had a penchant for putting out records by synth/electronic-based artists that very much liked to dabble in darker, new wave and dark wave sounds. I fell hard for The Soft Moon’s Zeros in the fall of 2012. That album opened the Captured Tracks world for me. Wild Nothing, Beach Fossils, Diiv, Craft Spells, Alex Calder, Mac Demarco, and Medicine were a few of the bands I got to know through their releases on Captured Tracks. Another band that I’d found on their roster was Thieves Like Us. I’m not completely sure what drew me to them, but I sampled some of their music and was instantly drawn to their album Berlin Alex.

Now Thieves Like Us’ sound has changed quite a bit since this first album of theirs was released. They now sound more like Euro dance pop(I’m not sure they’re even a band anymore.) Their most recent releases are pretty same-y and boring, but this first release with just Pontus Berghe on drums and keys, Björn Berglund on drums and keys, and Andy Grier on synthesizers is something completely different. Very dark and bubbling with those synth noises bands like Tangerine Dream and Cluster dabbled with, it’s an all instrumental affair that keeps you entranced for it’s 40 minute run time.

I won’t go into great detail in regards to the sound of this record. I’ll say this: if you’re familiar with Tangerine Dream’s Thief soundtrack, Kraftwerk’s Computer World, and countless other krautrock-isms over the last 40 years then this album may sound a little familiar. Not quite as morose or feckless as those that came before it, you get the feeling that the two swedes and the American expat wanted to delve into electronic music’s history and add a bit of sex to it. The deep bass and occasional dance beat give songs like “Free From The Ice”, “Get Me To The Kiss”, and “Dreams Of Malibu” a sensual touch. Like a replicant attempting to seduce the mortal human. I could definitely hear these songs as a score to that long rumored Blade Runner sequel.

Listening to the music that came after this record it’s as if what melancholy that had survived and thrived in the music on Berlin Alex was completely washed away. The robot had developed feelings AND a drug habit so everything was about canned partying and synth pop sweetness. I’m sure it was all about having a hit or whatever you want to call it, but I suppose I prefer the bedroom dark synth music to snorting coke in the club bathroom of albums like Play Music and Again and Again. I don’t blame a band for wanting worldwide success and lots of album sales. I just don’t usually like music that includes either of those things.

There was a recent update to the band’s Facebook page. It was a black and white photo with their name and something written in Japanese. They’re playing a show with Autechre and the Boredoms May 30th at the Taico Club Festival in Nagano Japan. Maybe there’s a new album of krautrock-ish instrumental music on the way? I don’t know. At least they’re still a band. Until I hear differently, I’ll just continue to enjoy this one great album from them. If you enjoy the wavering, hazy sounds of synth music I’d suggest you check this record out. Explore further if you’re feeling a little frisky. That’s completely up to you.

I need to go ice my ankle now. Yard work is tough work. So is getting old.

 

 

The Soft Moon : Deeper

Luis Vasquez, aka The Soft Moon, over the course of two full-length albums, one ep, and several singles has gone and made his own little musical world where there’s very little light. Up to this point his music consists of a mix of gothic post-punk, dark techno, and the sound of a club remix of Pornography-era Cure songs. Even though vocally the most you get out of Vasquez is pants, wheezes, and yelps, you still get the feeling that the music he makes is incredibly personal to him. The Soft Moon is the sound of an underground Berlin night club in the early 80s. It’s tense, dark, sexual, and primal.

Luis Vasquez’ new album as The Soft Moon is called Deeper, and it lives up to its name. It’s just as dark as previous albums, but more focused on emotions other than desire. This album feels like Luis Vasquez is working through some things in his life. The wheezes and yelps are quelled by Vasquez’ actual singing voice. Musically it’s still very visceral and primal, but Deeper feels more confessional. It’s the best Soft Moon album yet.

It’s very suiting that this record opens with a wavering mound of noise called “Inward”, as that’s where this album takes us. “Inward” to “Black”, we are treated to a sound that Trent Reznor wishes he could get back to. This album is the most NIN-like that The Soft Moon has gotten to. If I had to compare it to a NIN album, I’d say The Fragile. Like Mr. Reznor’s darkly confessional opus, Deeper is a brooding and bruised journal entry in Vasquez’ life. But unlike Trent Reznor’s near-death experience of an album, The Soft Moon’s confessional opus feels oddly healthy. Therapeutic, even. “Far” is a fast-paced Tram ride into the night. Staring out the window to traces of light and wall. I hate to beat a dead horse, but The Soft Moon still remind me of classic early-80s Cure. The flanged bass and guitar really do it. At times this great song also brings to mind Oliver Ackermann’s A Place To Bury Strangers, albeit with less ear-bleeding. “Wasting” sounds like a drop into the abyss, as guitar, keys, and bass echo into the darkness. Vasquez starts out singing, but his voice trails off into and endless delay. He sounds like he’s disintegrating as the rhythm picks up and his voice comes back into focus.

On previous records, Vasquez hinted at sounds that resembled NIN. I think The Soft Moon’s sound is a kindred spirit to Trent Reznor’s noise-making prowess; while at the same time not aping or copying. Luis Vasquez has a very unique style that mixes dark techno, post-punk, and Gothic bands like Bauhaus, Joy Division, and The Cure. His music isn’t nearly as claustrophobic as Reznor’s compressed insanity. “Wrong” is a perfect example of that. With the robotic voice, industrial groove, and bubbling synths, you get the feeling of Kraftwerk being remixed by Reznor. It’s clean and precise, but still jagged, rough, and sweat-inducing. Vasquez also adds an Afro-Cuban flair in the percussive heartbeat. Title track “Deeper” is another example of the tribal and primal percussion that Vasquez has woven into this new album. It’s heavy, intense, and very sexual.

Elsewhere, “Try” brings that flanged bass back with Vasquez’ longing vocals, “Desertion” pulsates with a bass-heavy rhythm, and “Without” is a piano-driven ballad, bringing to mind NINs “Something I Can Never Have”. “Feel” is classicist post-punk groove. A great Gothic dance track, something that would’ve fit nicely on Cocteau Twins’ Garlands. “Being” opens with the sound of a tape recorder being played, rewound, and re-played as Vasquez’ voice repeats “I can’t see my face, I don’t know who I am.” Musically the song is driving and intense.

I think The Soft Moon set out to make a more personal, inward-looking album and Luis Vasquez succeeded in that. Deeper is every bit as dark, intense, and brooding as previous albums. But at the core of this record is a heart that seems to have been hurt. Deeper is the process of healing, and the search for light at the end of a very dark, winding tunnel.

8.8 out of 10