The Soft Moon - s/t LP
Label: Captured Tracks
Might anybody remember Steve Trecasse? We're guessing the answer is no. He has been a small-time music producer, who worked at a time for MTV way back in the mid-to-late '80s. He was responsible for all of the music on the shortlived MTV gameshow Remote Control, but he also composed the theme song for the first incarnation of 120 Minutes. The show grew into a rather banal rehash of major label sponsored "alternative" music, but the early years had some genuine underground acts showcasing their videos. Live Skull, Swans, Sonic Youth and Loop were some of the more atypical groups to get their videos on the air, alongside more conventional college rock favorites like The Sugarcubes, Love & Rockets and They Might Be Giants. But that theme song hedged toward the darker, grittier sound through a throbbing electronic underbelly girding an air-raid siren guitar swarm which was not too far from a Skullflower (circa Birthdeath & Form Destroyer) / Sigue Sigue Sputnik / Joy Division hybrid as bafflingly awesome as that may seem. Another weird piece of trivia about that theme song was that it was performed by Trecasse with Doug Di Franco (who might just be Double Dee, turntablist Steinski's partner in crime) and Josh Braun (who seems to be the same dude who played keyboards in Circus Mort, which was Michael Gira's band before Swans). Anyway, that theme song proved to be more haunting and menacing than anything else that 120 Minutes dared to broadcast. It is a bit strange that a song that good, that dark, and that bleak would make it as a theme song for anything, much less for MTV. While that track is clearly something for somebody to dig up beyond an odd YouTube clip here or there, the fact remains that The Soft Moon has unintentionally arrived at this exact same psychic, sonic environment, nearly 25 years later, in an act of convoluted convergent evolution.
The Soft Moon is the post-punk / minimal wave project fronted by Oakland's wunderkid Luis Vasquez, whose eagerly awaited debut album is the perfect extension of his two teasing singles which emerged on Captured Tracks earlier in 2010. Guitars, bass, keyboards, drum machines, and a whispered vocal delivery all come together in a series of monochromatic, mechanical, and gloomy propulsions that fit within the current resurgence of Factory inspired alienation through sound. Amongst his death disco vibes and downer post-punk dirges, Vasquez has a knack for an icy noise quotient that glides through the springy basslines and taut rhythms. Layers drift throughout each song, building never as anything so garish as a solo, but more as a scabrous doppleganger of the songs arching mood. These are tonebent squalls of atonal screeches exhumed from a lo-fi murk and rinsed in pools of reverb, very much like those really early Skullflower recordings when Gary Mundy and Stefan Jaworzyn provided the twin guitar attack. Where Skullflower had a drug-fuelled nihilism at their core, The Soft Moon is more of an alchemist of gloom, doubling rhythms with staccato electronics and downtuned Killing Joke-ish basslines to what would have been a standard Goth plod. In many ways, it makes perfect sense that The Soft Moon has landed on Captured Tracks, as he's mining the same aesthetic surfaces of Blank Dogs, but where Blank Dogs holds back with a subtle irony, The Soft Moon fully embraces the gloom of this music; thus making this one of the best records of 2010 that everybody will be hearing in 2011. Awesome.