The SOFT MOON – ” Criminal “

Posted: February 5, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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The Soft Moon Criminal review Album of the Week

The Soft Moon‘s career has been something of a slow reveal. The gradual evolution from Luis Vasquez’s humbler, dreamier darkwave origins into a fully blown post-punk doom machine is akin to watching an eerie fog dissipate,It turns out the seething monster inside The Soft Moon has only grown hungrier. Criminal, Vasquez’s fourth full-length, is the heaviest he’s ever sounded, a twitchy, tormented network of pretty hate machines. Each of its 10 tracks is built on punchy full-band arrangements, the once-subtle synth-grooves of the past now usurped by furious, mechanized drum patterns and gut-churning fuzz basslines. It still sounds like The Soft Moon, but a version of the band that sounds more dangerous and tortured than before, bolstered by some of the most direct and anguished lyrics of Vasquez’s career. “I’m learning about myself and it’s kind of freaky,” he said , reflecting on the darkness he channels. “I’m kind of messed up, you know?”

The idea of darkness leading to great art is an old cliché, but in Vasquez’s case, it’s one that sticks. He plays that darkness like an instrument, his manipulation of atmosphere and menace essentially virtuosic. The pounding rhythm of lead single “Burn” reflect a more corporeal, full-band sound for The Soft Moon, though the intensely—if seductively—unsettling ambiance remains. Vasquez chants “I can’t control myself” against a snakelike bassline that climbs and snaps back, always on the verge of breaking. Yet its chorus is one of the catchiest moments in The Soft Moon’s entire discography—a moment of tortured triumph that stacks up to vintage Nine Inch Nails. There’s a similarly wretched groove to “Choke,” its carbon-monoxide-poisoned bassline juxtaposed in perfect balance with its freak-funk industrial beat.

Deeper cuts only lead to deeper wounds. In the woozy psychedelia of “Give Something,” Vasquez hints at a potentially destructive codependency as he sings, ”I don’t want to lose my mind, that’s why I keep you so close.” It could be drugs he’s reaching for, or it could be sex, but there’s every reason to believe that it’s only a temporary salve. Over a robotic synth march on “Like A Father,” his patriarchal-directed rage festers: ”This hate is a problem… something’s got to give.” And when Vasquez gives a screeching reading of the title phrase in the driving goth rock of “Born Like This,” it sounds like a fatalistic acceptance that nurture can’t overcome one’s fucked-up nature.

Good vibes are in short supply on Criminal, and frankly they’d probably just get in the way. There’s no celebrating on Criminal, just gnashing and brooding, manifested in the form of some of The Soft Moon’s most urgent, intense material.

From ‘Criminal,’ out February 2nd, 2018 on Sacred Bones Records.

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