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LIVE REPORT: The Soft Moon
Josh Gray , October 25th, 2015 23:27

Josh Gray reports on an unexpectedly brief performance from Luis Vasquez at Electrowerkz

Photo by Micaela McLucas

Before I begin I should state that this set was cut short by a man at the front collapsing and being taken to hospital. For anyone else who attended the Soft Moon's set at Electrowerkz last week: apparently he's recovering from some minor cranial damage caused by his head hitting the floor, but asides from that he's OK and is hopefully on the way to a quick recovery.

But onto the rest of the night…

Somewhere in the vast, empty void that separates Echo And The Bunnymen from Blanck Mass lies the slow boiling sound of the Soft Moon. Emerging from a haze of smoke to the sound of a thousand post-2010 film trailers (you know, the ones that repeatedly go 'PHWOMP'), Luis Vasquez and his henchmen Luigi Pianezzola (bass) and Matteo Vallicelli (drums) know how to build an oppressing atmosphere without alienating their audience. Vasquez is the mastermind behind the Soft Moon's uncompromising sound and for the next hour or so before the incident the Electrowerkz stage acts an outlet for the chaotic sounds bouncing around between his ears and channelled directly through his fingers. Over the course of their set he swaps between instruments, but once your eyes are closed and ears are open it becomes impossible to tell where the sounds of his keyboard, guitar and muggy vocals begin and end.

Vasquez writes anti-anthems, sonic constructs that form the outline of songs without ever filling the interior with the ingredients of conventional melody. These are vacuum-packed odes to emptiness and outsiderism, taking the bones of what could be stadium-filling singles and grinding them into intangible and unexpected forms. Unlike many of their noise-rock predecessors, however, the Soft Moon are not divorced from the expectations of accessibility in their songcrafting. They might smack of Bauhaus and Borghesia on first listen, but an unexpectedly heavy dose of New Order runs through their rhythm section's robotic drum kit/synthetic beat dialogue and the oscillating bass effects. Songs such as 'Try' and 'Zeros' could almost have been written by Bernard Sumner and co. could have written them had they followed Gary Numan on his wild descent into industrial metal. The resulting effect makes you feel like the Soft Moon could break out into a huge stadium-filling chorus at any moment, the shifting guitar beds and bizarre no-wave hooks of 'Into The Depths' and the spectacular 'Insides' sliding beneath your nails and itching under your skin. My expectations were constantly confounded all evening.

Whether ripping into an unexpected yet stunning bongo solo on 'Wrong' or chasing the desired walls of feedback rubbing his guitar up and down against any available surface like a horny Thurston Moore, Vasquez's prodigious musicianship is demonstrated again and again. Given that it's now nearly half a century since Hendrix released his first album, coming up with a truly distinctive guitar sound becomes more challenging every day. Thankfully Vasquez's peculiarly ataxic axe attack sounds strangely fresh. As the meandering sound beds of 'Dead Love' moan and squeal like a pod of lost whales his single-minded shredding cuts through the noise like the squall of a surfacing narwhal. His vocals, on the other hand, definitely play second fiddle. The few lyrics that break through the instrumental juddering cage surrounding them radiate pure angst. Too much angst in my opinion. The gloomy throb of 'Far' flings out more "it kills me inside"s and "take me far away to escape myself"s than a text conversation between Shirley Manson and Billy Corgan. One song is given the cheery introduction, "this song was my suicide note, but I'm still here!". By no means am I saying that the Soft Moon should lighten up, their dark web of nihilism is too fascinating. But by the time the night was cut short by the previously mentioned audience member collapsing, the whole thing was starting to feel a tad on the portentous side. But hindsight's a fickle thing and the sudden end of the set colours the night's atmosphere.

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