The Soft Moon’s “Burn”

Luis Vasquez, aka The Soft Moon, has a new album coming out in February. It’s called Criminal and what I’ve heard of it tells me that it could be one of my favorite records of 2018. Each album he puts out becomes both more accessible and harsher. From the first self-titled record which felt almost like an instrumental record at times to Zeros in 2012, Vasquez went into more of an early NIN direction. He mixes South American percussive vibes with dark industrial sensibility. He pushes the envelope when it comes to his sound and the visual aspect of both the album art and his live presentation.

His last album, the excellent Deeper in 2015, Vasquez seemed to have had a breakthrough with his sound. He made a very personal record, giving Deeper a more singer/songwriter feel.

Instead of a guy with an acoustic guitar it was a guy with a synthesizer and industrial beats.

Criminal, The Soft Moon’s first album with Sacred Bones(having released with Captured Tracks for the past few years) sounds like a perfect meshing of everything that came before. The first two singles, “Burn” and “It Kills” are primo darkwave/industrial. Sweaty, dense, propulsive and caffeinated like a late night coffee session in a lousy diner after an evening of slam dancing in an underground club.

Check the songs out below and look for this one in February of 2018 on Sacred Bones Records(home of John Carpenter, yo!) I already preordered the special edition vinyl cause that’s what I do.

 

Favorite Spins of 2015 : April Edition

It’s hard to believe we’re nearly into April already. Time flies when you’re being froze out by Old Man Winter, or Mother Nature, or whoever it was that shat upon us with snow and sub-zero temps the last three months. It’s a good thing that it’s been a great three months worth of album releases to keep me  preoccupied at the turntable…and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of letting up anytime soon.

So as I was saying, some really great albums have been released since January. So many that I may have to build another vinyl cabinet very soon. I think it was late fall that I purchased some cedar and finishing nails last. I’ll be off work in two weeks for Spring Break, so that seems like a good time to get busy on that project. But hey, you don’t want to hear about my carpentry skills(do you?), so let’s get down to the heart of the matter: Albums.

papir live10. Papir : Live At Roadburn

So in normal circumstances I wouldn’t rate a live album in a list of favorites. Not that I have anything against live albums. Wilco’s Kicking Televsion, Television’s Live At The Old Waldorf, and Dokken’s Beast From The East are all stellar live records that I revisit often(well, two of the three anyways…guess which two and I’ll buy you a Coke.) But as good as a live album can be, I just don’t normally get so enamored with them that they end up a favorite. Well, Danish psych rock monsters Papir have made a live record worthy of praising at the top of my lungs from the highest reaches of the earth. Or right here.

Roadburn Festival is a rite of passage for psych and heavy rock bands alike. Many have donned that stage located in the Netherlands, and Papir can now be added to that list. Their time spent on that stage was a ferocious one, with the three-piece leaving ash and flame in their rocking wake. How three guys can make such an immense and intense sound is pretty remarkable. Every song is amazingly played and executed, and not a single note is wasted. If you can appreciate expert musicianship and hazy, long-form instrumentals you can get lost in then you should pick up Papir’s Live At Roadburn.

moon duo9. Moon Duo : Shadows of the Sun

It’s not often that a side project overshadows the main gig, but Ripley Johnson’s side gig in Moon Duo has certainly taken the number one spot over his main gig in Wooden Shjips. Moon Duo has always been about a groove, much like the Shjips, but more like Suicide rather than Hawkwind. With each successive record Johnson and Sanae Yamada have honed in the groove and robot krautrock giddiness and after 2012s Circles they seemed to have perfected that trip. Then they throw Shadows of the Sun at our ears this year and all bets are off. Perkier, catchier tunes made with the help a living, breathing drummer, the Moon Duo ride got louder, faster, and groovier. It’s a hell of an album and one that makes the stakes even higher for Wooden Shjips to up the ante next time around.

Layout_11_A_FINAL_Corr8. Panda Bear : Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper

After 2011s less weird, more introspective Tomboy, it was hard to see where Noah Lennox would take his Panda Bear moniker. Would he move further into a subtle holding pattern and scare his Animal Collective fanbase away? Or would he drop some acid, turn on the strobe lights in his tiny studio, and freak out to some krunky beats and cry into the microphone for 12-minute musical dirges? I’m happy to report he did neither. Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is a great mix of Person Pitch experimentation and Tomboy introspection. It’s weird, fun, gleefully upbeat and woozily druggy at times. It feels like a step forward without compromising anything that made us love Panda Bear’s weird world in the first place.

of montreal7. Of Montreal : Aureate Gloom

For a moment in 2013 it almost seemed as if Kevin Barnes had gone legit. He put away the slippery, maze-like vernacular and the dense, musical kaleidoscopes for good old late 60s groove and Stones-y rock ‘n roll. The result was Lousy With Sylvianbriar, Of Montreal’s most straightforward rock and roll record since, well, ever.

With Barnes’ and Of Montreal’s return, Aureate Gloom proves that Kevin Barnes likes the sound of a full band recording together in a room, but he still hasn’t forgotten to include some obtuse lyrics and jagged angular riffs here and there. This time, Of Montreal mines the heyday of gritty and grimy New York City and the bands that sweat and bled on the stage of CBGBs. The result is an intense, living and breathing record that begs to be played over and over again.

APTBS6. A Place To Bury Strangers : Transfixiation

Oliver Ackermann makes unnaturally heavy, buzzy, and fuzzy music in A Place To Bury Strangers. From the start it’s been that way. It’s as if The Jesus and Mary Chain and Suicide were devoured into some doomed melting pot. While I’ve enjoyed APTBS in the past, it was hard to listen to a whole record without Tinnitus setting in before the last song ended. Their newest album, however, has something that previous records lacked in: groove. There’s a presence to Transfixiation that makes you feel as if you’re right there with Ackermann and friends. The bass and drums keep the songs firmly grounded, allowing Ackermann to freak out on the guitar with glee. Songs like “Supermaster” and “Straight” would’ve gotten lost in a sea of treble-y squall on previous efforts. There’s now a new focus on movement and rhythm, as opposed to just that static buzz of indifference.

eternal tapestry5. Eternal Tapestry : Wild Strawberries

Wild Strawberries, the newest album by Oregon’s Eternal Tapestry, is a masterpiece in epic aural wanderings and experimenting in sound. Previous albums felt like drawn-out jams that were probably 15 to 20 minute snippets of hours-long THC-fueled sound excursions. Not that Wild Strawberries isn’t that. There are certainly lengthy buzzed-in-the-woods sound excursions here, but there seems to be more focus this time around. Even down to the excellent album artwork the band seems intent on reaching a destination, as well as enjoying the journey. “Enchanter’s Nightshade”, “Madienhair Spleenwort”, and the epic closer “White Adder’s Tongue” all ramble on nicely with slippery guitar lines, rock solid drums that border on jazz structures, and distant noises that wisp by your ears when enjoying it with headphones, but there seems to be a purpose here. Even if that purpose is to enhance a buzz, it’s still a purpose.

sbr123-johncarpenter-lostthemes-1400_1024x10244. John Carpenter : Lost Themes

It’s not enough to just enjoy the beauty that is a John Carpenter film. You have to relish in every aspect of them. From the long, steadi-cam shots and tension-building use of light and dark, to the wide shots and use of color, Carpenter’s films are to be devoured, not a morsel wasted. The music of his films is an integral part of the experience. His soundtracks are sought after by horror movie geeks like myself the world over, so when it was announced he was releasing an album of original music called Lost Themes, well lets just say there was a collective squeal heard the world over by horror movie nerds everywhere.

Lost Themes does not disappoint. In fact, if you close your eyes you can come up with some amazing nightmares to go along with Carpenter’s amazing album. Synthesizers buzz and rhythms move you along like a kid walking the sidewalks on Halloween searching for tricks and treats.

11183_JKT3. The Soft Moon : Deeper

I’ve been obsessed with Luis Vasquez’ dark, percussive sound ever since I overdosed on his 2012 album Zeros. The Soft Moon seemed to find the missing link between post-punk angst and gothic doomed sexual tension. You get the feeling of some dank, dark underground nightclub as you listen to his groove-filled rhythms and his pained yelps and reverb-drenched screams. Synths pump dark, taunting riffs as the flanged bass line flows effortlessly through the mix.

On Deeper, the music remains dark, but with signs of life under the bass-heavy songs. “Wrong” sounds like Kraftwerk under the watchful hands of Trent Reznor, while “Black” marches and pulsates like an oncoming panic attack. Deeper is a seriously great album, and the best Soft Moon album yet.

viet cong2. Viet Cong : Viet Cong

Viet Cong have made an album filled with darkness and dread, while at the same time never giving us the desire to get the hell away from them. The sound they make is decidedly post-punk, but there’s hints of pop hooks throughout. Though half of this Canadian band were in the long gone but not forgotten band Women, there isn’t much in Viet Cong that resembles that band. Viet Cong have their own trip here, and it’s an intense one.

From “Newspaper Spoons” anxiety-ridden tribal beginnings, to “Bunker Buster” and its deep-laden groove and sonic textures, clear to the epic 11-minute closer “Death”, this debut LP is everything that brings guys like me back for more. What is that, you may ask? Solid songs. Intense, meticulous, and beautifully damaged songs.

jonas1. Jonas Munk : Absorb Fabric Cascade

Jonas Munk has made an album in the tradition of great early electronic pioneers like Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Popol Vuh, and Tangerine Dream. Consisting of three distinct movements, Absorb Fabric Cascade is music you feel. It’s visceral, intellectual music that carries you along on a journey through time and space. Munk is no stranger to this kind of thing, having made the excellent Pan in 2012, as well as the expansive Pewt’r Sessions with Causa Sui, but this time around there’s a subtlety to these pieces that makes the record almost transcendent.

Layers of synths, piano, and organs come together to create an aural tapestry you can get lost in. If you dig Reich, Riley, and early 70s Tangerine Dream you will completely fall for Absorb Fabric Cascade. If you’re not familiar with these guys, you should still give Jonas Munk a listen. Music to get lost in.

 

I’ve heard the new Lightning Bolt and it’s amazing, but since I’ve only had the chance to peruse it once or twice it didn’t make it on this list. Look for it at the half way point in July, though. There’s also the new White Hills to look forward to. Oh, and the Mold Boy album. And possibly a new Causa Sui. And the new Sufjan Stevens. And Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

2015? So far so very good.

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

 

Music For The New Year: Albums To Look Forward To In 2015

11183_JKTI know, I know. This should be my favorite albums of 2014, not albums I’m looking forward to in 2015. As much as I love the favorite lists, and as satisfying as it is once I’m done with making my own and sharing it with the world, I have to admit it’s quite a daunting task for me. Sure, the top five is pretty easy for me. It’s that six through ten that kills me. There are always about five albums every year that get heavy rotation with me. From the get-go I know those are gonna make it in my top five favorites. But then there’s those other albums that get a lot of play, but just not quite enough for me to call them masterpieces. Very good albums, but not quite top five. Those are the ones I struggle with, as I don’t want to make them seem less great than what they are. I just want to….. You see? I’ve been rambling for a healthy paragraph about making my favorites list. I’m not even actually writing it. I’m just talking about writing it. So in lieu of my favorites list(it will be here soon), I wanted to talk about a couple albums I’m super excited about for the new year.

Viet Cong – Viet Cong

So just recently I discovered this Calgary band called Viet Cong. They formed from the ashes of the band Women. I wasn’t that crazy about Women(but I do love women, don’t get me wrong), though their album Public Strain had some moments of genius. After Women called it quits, members Matt Flegel and Michael Wallace formed Viet Cong with Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen and made the Cassette ep. Called Cassette because it was orginally a cassette-only release that they gave out at shows. The cool folks at Mexican Summer were kind enough to do a vinyl release of this gem and it’s so worth the money. Musically it’s a blast of post-punk(think the raggedness and angular riffs of Wire, mixed with the pop sensibility of The Buzzcocks) mixed with some dark, gothic undertones. Plus, they do a cover of Bauhaus’ “Dark Entries” that’s insanely good. Well Viet Cong are releasing their LP debut with Jagjaguwar. It’s self-titled, and from the first single “Continental Shelf”, I can tell it’s gonna be great. It still retains that post-punk harshness with the underlying darkness. It adds just a little bit of How To Bury Strangers’ guitar squall in the verses, while throwing in some Interpol melancholy during the chorus. These references are merely starting points. Viet Cong are doing their own thing here. This song and band are scary good. The self-titled album comes out 1/20/15 on Jagjaguwar.

Of Montreal – Aureate Gloom

I’m not sure if Kevin Barnes has ever been diagnosed as having ADD, but I think if he was ever tested he’d surely be. The guy goes through musical styles like his life depended on it. Pretty much from 2007s Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer to now he’s donned a different musical hat each time out. Always changing it up, yet always retaining that ingredient that makes it very much a Kevin Barnes/Of Montreal joint. It’s usually freaky, sexual, funky, and hallucinogenic. Last year’s Lousy with Sylvianbriar was probably the most straight-forward rock and roll record Barnes has ever put out. It was a mix of classic 60s staples the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and even some Neil Young thrown in. For those that bought it on the promise of more of the same you will be sorely disappointed. For the rest of us, we knew this was coming. Aureate Gloom, from the first single “Bassem Sabry”, sounds like a return to more of the disco-ish leanings of Hissing Fauna and Skeletal Lamping, but slightly darker. I listened to the track and thought “Hmm. Okay.” Then I listened to it again. And again. Then one more time. By the fifth listen I was hooked. It’s deceivingly familiar sounding. You’d think it was a leftover from an earlier album, until you dig a little deeper. There’s more depth here. It sounds honest. It’s quite wonderful. After watching the doc The Past Is A Grotesque Animal I found myself not liking Kevin Barnes as much as I did before I knew what a difficult person he truly was. I even wondered if I’d ever like him as an artist like I did prior to that viewing. This song answers that question: Yes. I do still like him as an artist. I probably always will. He’s still a musical genius that makes incredibly freaky and funky confessional albums. Aureate Gloom comes out 3/3/15 on Polyvinyl.

Moon Duo – Shadows of the Sun

Man do I love Moon Duo. I think I’m starting to love Moon Duo more than Ripley Johnson’s main gig Wooden Shjips. It’s as if he’s saving his krautrock freakiness more for Sanae Yamada and their Moon Duo moniker than his old school space rock buds in the Shjips. And I think I’m okay with that. After the great Live In Ravenna earlier this year I wasn’t expecting anything new from this spaced-out motorik duo, but just a couple weeks ago it was announced that Johnson and Yamada in fact are releasing a new album in March called Shadows of the Sun. If lead single “Animal” is any indication it’s gonna be a snarling, spaced-out record. Shadows of the Sun comes out 3/3/15 on Sacred Bones.

John Carpenter – Lost Themes

I’m a sucker for that analog synth stuff. Some amazing records came out in 2014 that kept my ears buzzing with square waves and modulation. A good portion of those records were heavily influenced by John Carpenter and his creepy and slick synth scores for his excellent films. As with most scores, a lot of stuff that gets written for film never sees the light of day. Master of Horror John Carpenter is no different. In February Sacred Bones is releasing Lost Themes, a collection of pieces Carpenter wrote but never used. We get to soak in some Carpenter goodness as much as we want without the use of a Blu Ray player or VCR. It’s gonna be good. Check it out. Lost Themes comes out 2/3/15.

The Soft Moon – Deeper

Luis Vasquez and his Soft Moon moniker made me a fan with 2012s Zeros, an unrelenting dark and hypnotic record filled with gothic black and pulsating beats that makes one think of some hidden, underground German club where everyone is in black leather, sweating, grinding, and there’s at least three vampires on the dance floor. It felt like a collection of musical vignettes, each accenting long pushed away thoughts. The thoughts coming back to life with Vasquez’ musical incantations. Vasquez disappeared into Europe with his Soft Moon project and has returned after a year of getting lost in his head and music and has given us Deeper. Lead single “Black” is heavy, unrelenting, and in razor focus. It sounds like a young, hungry, and vicious version of Trent Reznor(a collaboration between Vasquez and Reznor would be something to behold.) If this song is any indication, this album is gonna be dense, dark, and incredible.

Deeper come out 3/31/15 on Captured Tracks.

A Place To Bury Strangers, Alex Calder, The Black Ryder, and Panda Bear all have albums coming out in the next three months as well, so it’s gonna be a front-heavy year for new music. You have nothing to complain about in regards to new music to engage your mind with. Open your head and prepare dig in. All right, I’m getting back to the dungeon to work on this favorites list.

Sunday Random Nonsense

DSC04427Not much to report. Just wanted to share a couple things. One of the comics my son and I found was a Dr. Who comic from 1981. It’s Dr. Who Vol. 1 No. 58 February 1981 to be exact. I’s not worth anything, it’s just something we thought was pretty interesting. My oldest daughter is a big Dr. Who fan, in particular the 9th,10, and 11th Doctors. This comic concerns the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, battling against the Malevilus, “The Gods of the Roman Empire”. I won’t bore you with the details, I’ll just say it’s a good little read if you’re into that sort of thing. Makes me want to go back and get acquainted with the older years of Dr. Who. I’ve enjoyed the newer seasons, starting with Christopher Eccleston, but I’ve not delved back into those classic years.

Also yesterday I received my Soft Moon 7″ for “Feel” with the b-side “Hunger”. Really enjoyed spinning that one. If you haven’t dug into The Soft Moon’s catalog you really should. Luis Vasquez, in my opinion, will end up being as important to electronic music as Trent Reznor has been. Truly inspiring music. If these new songs are any indication this new album is going to be incredible. You heard it here first, kids.

I’d like to thank Mr. 1537 for the inspiration for the comics. He does some amazing comics posts over at his home. Just look at this here.

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The Soft Moon-Zeros

From the opening seconds of The Soft Moon’s starkly lit and at times apocalyptic-sounding new album Zeros, album opener ‘It Ends’ sets the mood. That mood is dark, propulsive, atmospheric and addictive. It’s what was playing in an S&M club somewhere in the Eastern Block in 1981. It’s what was pounding the wall of a German Disco in 1979. It’s what made a 20 year old Robert Smith put on eyeliner and pick up a guitar. This is the essence of  Ian Curtis, Alan Vega and Peter Murphy. Sex clubs, kinky sex, black leather and dark thoughts.

Welcome to the world of The Soft Moon and Luis Vasquez.

Vasquez started The Soft Moon by himself, with the intent of creating an all-emcompassing music project. Something that would touch on sight and sound. With The Soft Moon’s self-titled LP from 2010 he set the tone: a band propelled by music that created a mood. Vocals are minimal, if not completely non-existent on a good portion of the album. With Zeros, Luis Vasquez has found the balance between song and mood. After the Suicide-fueled opener ‘It Ends’, ‘Machines’ comes in like Joy Division violated by Trent Reznor’s 1989 production values. Vocals hissed more than sung over a menacing electronic beat with synth stabs coming in and out. Title track ‘Zeros’ has a 154-era Wire vibe with Vasquez’s “Ahhs” echoing in the background. Gary Numan is haunting this track as well.

The (Pain)& Pleasure Principle. 

‘Insides’ sounds as if The Soft Moon is lost inside a cavernous synth punk gorge, waiting to be devoured by the cold and dark as sunlight fades. The Cure’s ‘A Hundred Years’, with a dash of dark humor for good measure. ‘Remember The Future’ is heavy on the flanged bass and bee buzz synth. Instrumental and propulsive, it’s a great soundtrack for a midnight ride on the tram.

Each track encapsulates a feeling of isolation, claustrophobia, and a dizziness that once you’re into a song for 30 seconds you can’t see the light at the beginning or end. You’re just in the song. At times this album is part soundtrack to a nightmare, and at times Eraserhead industrial noise with a Bauhaus afterglow. ‘Crush’, ‘Die Life’ and ‘Lost Years’ all are self-explanatory titles to what they contain within:  a disco in purgatory. A dance club in post-apocalyptic Berlin. A beat that propels you to the brink.  

This album isn’t for the casual listener. You have to be comfortable with the dark side of post punk and new wave. Lots of bands as of late have taken to recreating the sounds of early 80s alternative and new wave. A few are doing a hell of a job with it, such as Wild Nothing, Diiv, Merchandise and Craft Spells. The Soft Moon can be put into that group, albeit in their own sub-category. They’re not out to make it onto a John Hughes soundtrack. They’re aiming for Wim Wenders, Alex Cox or Ridley Scott. Zeros aims for a tribal, primal and darkly sexual landscape. They hit the mark, over and and over.