Summer’s been over for a long, long time. Thanksgiving’s a faded memory. Christmas came and went with the swiftness of a speeding motorist on a 4 a.m. highway, and all that’s left is the chill of winter’s doldrums. I know I’ll take a lot of flack for saying this, living in Southern California and all, but whether the ground is covered with snow or merely browning grass, the unceremonious dead of winter has arrived. Time to pack up the chillwave and the beach-fi, and embrace the darker realms on their flipside, best embodied by one-man doom factory The Soft Moon.
Soft Moon, aka Luis Vasquez, funnels the weirder side of post-punk and krautrock into a mesmerizing yet chilling mélange that could best be described as “woe-fi” or “gothwave.” Or not – we don’t need any more stupid names for slight variations on existing sounds. But on Soft Moon’s self-titled first album, there’s a deeply sinister take on post-punk that finds the well-worn path of Interpol-style guitar haze spliced with the unsettling Moog vapor of coldwave and the persistent pulse of Neu!
The combination of sonic treats that Vasquez blends together tends to alternate between more straightforward goth-rock numbers and heart-racing instrumentals, allowing equal breathing space for danceable and brooding compositions alike. Yet while Joy Division inspired chuggers such as “Breathe the Fire” and “When It’s Over” are enjoyable enough songs in their own right, it’s the synth-powered new wave monsters in which Vasquez’s strengths truly lie. The analog synthesizers in “Out of Time” squeal like police sirens atop a sexy, uptempo disco pulse, while the dance-friendly minimalism in “Dead Love” finds a touch of hedonism in distant, unsettling textures. And “We Are We” stomps with a militant austerity, awash in distortion and jarring vocal effects.
Winter may have cast out the sunnier side of indie rock, or at least its most literal inspirations, but The Soft Moon offers a darker alternative that makes the frosty air seem just a little more sensual and alluring. The Soft Moon offers a celebration of all things cold in an abrasive albeit sexy package. Nightmares never sounded so seductive.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.