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Posted on March 4th, 2015 (11:00 am) by Matt LaBarbera

For a recent Vice piece, Luis Vasquez, the driving force behind The Soft Moon, was asked to create an artistic pairing for the opening track of John Carpenter’s first album, Lost Themes. The paragraph he wrote was a premise for an even more insidious tale than Vonnegut’s “2 B R 0 2 B.” In his piece, Vasquez writes, “For the last 200 years humans have learned to become immortal with no way of reversing the effect. […] The closest thing to death is achieving unconsciousness by inflicting as much agonizing pain as possible to the point of blackout. It's the only escape from this world.” As well as that might describe Carpenter’s work, it’s not hard to imagine Vasquez writing the very same to describe himself. After all, since their self-titled debut in 2010, and 2012’s Zeroes, The Soft Moon has been fixated on the concept of cupio dissolvi or, at least, involved in a romance with the death drive. It should be no surprise then that this newest release, Deeper, continues along the same line of thought, bemoaning the poor soul leashed to the body. Continuing his explorations of the darkest parts of himself and the world around him, Vasquez realizes one of the more convincing musical attacks on existence.

As usual, Vasquez experiments with bleakness to such a degree that even calling his approach downer-wave is a bit of an understatement. The album's lead single, “Black,” marches along to a strident, industrial beat, calling to mind the story Vasquez penned for Carpenter. It’s a parade towards nothingness; a clockwork man commanded to walk until he falls apart, haunted all the time by Vasquez’s hollow susurrus. The mortal machine is not just a concept, but a praxis. “Try,” with its bass thrum, is like a Joy Division track swarmed by static, and a good example of what The Soft Moon's exact categorical position is. Pulling from nearly every electronic genre of the '80s, Vasquez stands with his fist tightened around many threads: post-punk, minimal synth, darkwave, coldwave, industrial, and maybe even EBM, if you’re lenient on classifications. Despite the undeniable fact of a great deal of interpenetration between these genres, it is still fascinating to see such the encompassing synthesis managed here and in earlier work.

The driving, dense synth chug paired with the whining, wavering synth drone of “Desertion” develop this idea that The Soft Moon’s unique position in music is one of a nexus. There is most certainly some channeling going on here, as the distant vocals and shredded synths find their footing in the track. If anyone deserves to be called an inheritor of the spazzed-out, anxiety-ridden '80s electronic scene, it’s probably Vasquez. From the ethereal, clonazepam haze of “Wasting,” to the prodding pulse of “Feel,” Deeper musically covers much of the same territory first mapped by its gloomy predecessors. While it is difficult to say that something completely new is discovered herein, there is an intense focusing of an aesthetic. That’s not to call this album superbly conceptual. Vasquez makes several gestures towards the poppier with “Far,” featuring a propulsive bass line and a hook you can really grab onto. It is perhaps the only track unburdened by the onus of knowledge and experience.

Lyrically, however, there is nothing but focus. Vasquez is committed to interrogating the yawning abyss that simultaneously threatens and invites. The title track calls out between swelling synths, hand drums, and robotic whooping, “All is darkness / Deeper, deeper / Feel the pressure / Deeper, deeper,” and reveals an encroaching, eternal nothing. The album's closer, “Being,” opens with, “I can’t see my face / I don’t know where I am / What is this place?” Each line, punctuated with the rewind squiggle of a tape recorder, demonstrates an attendant obsession with the self, a companion to the meditations on the release of oblivion. The three lines started calm and mantra-like before evolving into confused, anxious, and aggressive exhortations to nothing. Nothing, save the squealing loop that closes the album.

Deeper, both musically and lyrically, seems to be marked by this fetal rocking from solipsism to nihilism and back again. They’re not compatible positions, but this oscillation allows for the tireless denial of existence and the self-obsessed, self-consuming "I" that dominates every second of the record. Going back to Vasquez’s premise for Carpenter: “There's a brief moment of lingering euphoria from what he just experienced before realizing he is now back to where he has always been.” That instant of realization is the music of Deeper and, perhaps, the character of The Soft Moon in general; a yearn for the moment of euphoria, but the burden of knowing that it is completely separate from this reality. Deeper is disorienting and alienating, it makes urgent demands of epistemology and metaphysics. It is a call for the excavation of reality; a dogged, feverish dig, bent on discovering if something worth the cost of living is buried deeper, somewhere beneath suffering. Despite it's philosophical underpinnings, it installs itself as a true successor to the crushed, dispossessed age of gothic electronics, and a forceful expression of a shattering angst.

Track List:

  1. Inward
  2. Black
  3. Far
  4. Wasting
  5. Wrong
  6. Try
  7. Desertion
  8. Without
  9. Feel
  10. Deeper
  11. Being
The Soft Moon - Deeper Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

78 / 100
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