There’s a standard horror-movie cliché whereby naive group members with video cameras go off to explore obviously menacing situations, whilst their friends watch events unfold from afar. The usual outcome of such trips is a sudden violent frenzy, the demise of said explorers and the screen turning to fuzz and white noise. It’s both inevitable and thrilling all at once. It’s safe to say that San Franciscan synth geeks The Soft Moon are aware of this cinematic trope as both their visuals and their music felt like the best kind of disaster waiting to happen.
Somewhat reliant on Alan Vega-style affirmations, front man Luis Vasquez writhed, squirmed and yelped his way through a seemingly short set on what has been a packed UK and European tour. On their debut album, his vocal parts have been reduced to almost minor feedback, but the live arena provides Vasquez a chance to showcase his natural timbre. He’s no Callas but his repetitive verses and drones are what make the group so appealing.
Repetition is a key factor in The Soft Moon’s graphically honed aesthetic. The clanging guitars and ever-pulsing drum machine don’t slow pace all evening. Creating any sort of emotion can be a tough enough challenge for an up-and-coming band, so to create such menace and discomfort with apparent ease explains why the venue was so full. This is pure Goth melodrama. The Soft Moon manage to transform the mock Victoriana of Lexington into a spooky sci-fi wasteland, complete with dry ice and strobe lights.
There are no new numbers, no surprise material, just the already embraced back catalogue. Early track Circles – complete with the official music video projected handily onto the band – summed up the mood of the evening. Penetrative, yearning, lost. Music for stragglers and outlaws.
Vasquez is definitely a child of the ’80s and his fondness for the decade shows. He has embraced video nasty library sounds, melded them with C86 production values and created a new form of emotional intensity. Not reliant on ballads or water-treading instrumentals, The Soft Moon somehow manage to be both wistful and punishing. Set finisher Tiny Spiders is probably the closest thing they have to an anthem and as such, it receives the evening’s the greatest audience reaction. The decidedly mixed crowd may have come into this eager to find out if the palpable storm and bluster The Soft Moon creates in the studio would be recreated onstage, and they certainly do not come away disappointed.