Music has a wonderful ability to make you feel a number of emotions and feelings, some happy and some very sad. It is unusual though for a collection of music to induce a feeling of complete and utter mind-bending terror. This is the overriding feeling that is generated by listening to Zeros the staggering second album by San Francisco synth noise group The Soft Moon. There are likely to be few more uncompromising and darkly compelling albums released this year than the latest insight to the insane mind of Luis Vasquez.
The Soft Moon initially began in 2009 as a solo project for Vasquez but have slowly progresses into something of a fully formed group although Vasquez is still the man behind everything. The Soft Moon is very much his singular vision. Having established their icy post punk indebted aesthetic on 2010’s self titled debut LP and last years Total Decay EP, The Soft Moon expand on those sounds and take them to an even more far out place on Zeros.
Zero’s is an album that is dripping with dystopian dread. The synths are as cold as a mortuary slab while spindly Cure like guitars and pulsing Joy Division basslines make their brooding presence felt. It is a strange album as there are composite parts that bring to mind any number of post punk, industrial and experimental influences, as well as the electro noise of Crystal Castles and Factory Floor, but as a whole, it sounds almost unlike anything you have heard. An example of its outré approach is opening track It Ends appears to sample the sound of someone’s heavy breathing. The propensity for strange noises and effects is a common theme of the album.
There is no room in The Soft Moon’s oeuvre for anything you could consider a conventional song, there is no lightness whatsoever. A grim foreboding is the overriding principle. This does make for an album that is extremely hard to listen to at times but strangely compelling. You want to turn it off as the relentless white noise of Want’s crescendo rises to ear piercing levels but you just cannot.
Zeros is very minimalist in its construction and not a note or sound is wasted. There is a primitive feel to the stark electronic grooves on tracks like Remember The Future and the mesmerizing industrial churn of Crush, which adds to the feeling that you are listening to something, unreconstructed and ever so slightly sinister.
What little lyrics there is are largely indecipherable. Vasquez’s vocals are barely discernible in the mix. His voice is there as something of a ghostly specter. The one clear lyric is the repeated mantra of, “I want it can’t have it’ in penultimate track Want.
It’s eminently career throughout this challenging and, at times, deeply grim album that The Soft Moon are a group blissfully unconcerned with the vagaries of pop music and the commercial music industry. They are a group that exist solely to make abstruse, dark and head spinning noise. As such, Zeros accomplishes its goals very well.