Friday the 13th should be celebrated with blood… with killing… with a haunting of your soul. That might not require a weapon unless of course, you mean music and in this case, The Soft Moon‘s post punk is the sharpest knife. Selling out show after show on his tour, Luis Vasquez’s trio from Oakland, CA, has created a new sound in an old form.
Lethal Amounts brought together three musical acts, each dwelling in the same realm of dark music but from completely different approaches. Drenched in blue lights and dense shadows, Liebestod is a one man show that uses noise to disjoint and sever your connection to anything familiar in music. He’s a noise performer with an industrial edge that uses electronics to make every show a completely new and original thing. Improvising with every fidget of his wires, I’m not even sure if he knows what sonic monster, he’ll end up spawning even so, it was pleasurable to the eyes, the ears, and with the foundation shaking bass, to the skin and bones too. Based in L.A. but hailing from St. Louis, the rust belt, one can imagine what sort of industrial upbringing fueled his current line of work. The sounds he creates conjure up the images of cold steel and black leather sheen in the worst Orwellian fascist nightmare. Liebestod joins Russell Haswell, Consumer Electronics, and Drew Mcdowall as some of the best noise acts I’ve ever seen.
I love Boy Harsher. They stimulate a crowd in such an organic fashion to where you can ride the audience’s pulse with every dip and crest. Jae Matthews and August Miller began their set with a haunting soundscape of noise and vocals… nothing you could dance to. It was meant to mount our anticipations for the release we were expecting. It’s the same performing tactic Adolf Hitler would use when he’d stand in front of a crowd in silence as their anticipation for him to speak drove them mad. Once we were at the band’s desired fever pitch, August increased the tempo and we were off and dancing.
My favorite thing about Boy Harsher is what Jae Matthews nonverbally communicates with her vocal style. I don’t mean the lyrics, I mean the messages we receive simply by her changes in tone and pitch when she goes from singing to shrieking in a convulsive, explosion of movement. It makes the music, the evening, and your own body feel unpredictable. Closing their set out with “Motion” and “Pain”, August was able to climax the set with this insane medley of noise that was so powerful it could make weak minds implode.
The Soft Moon is probably one of the most well acclaimed and hyped contemporary post punk acts. I remember seeing them play at Cloak and Dagger for the first twenty minutes of their set and not quite feeling it. I came to this show thinking this was going to be the band’s redemption, that they were going to show me something I didn’t see the last time, that I was just too tired or on a different trip to understand them at first.
Unfortunately, after seeing a full show, I can’t I had my moment of clarity or change of heart. The Soft Moon represents something I don’t like… Utilizing some of the best musical production and harshest, hardest hitting tones in post-punk that I’ve ever heard, I feel like this band has the musical and sensory elements of their songs down to a point that they’re virtually unmatched. And yet, I had nothing meaningful to take away as far as a song or lyric or moment that touched or haunted me. I didn’t understand the lyrics of most of the songs because the vocals were too buried in the sound mix and the times I did understand them, they were just repeated over and over, with little semblance of real songwriting craft to be found.
Now none of this is to say the band makes bad music, I think they make great music. I never knew you could sound melancholic or haunting with this much punch, this viscerally, but still it leaves much to be desired especially from a band this big and when other bands can sound less sonic yet have much more depth. And when I say this band is visceral, I mean they pummel their instruments with dire amounts of passion, especially when they get on some percussive kick.
Nine Inch Nails is a band you can dance to twice as hard as you would The Soft Moon but you’re still touched by every song. So it’s not like style and substance are mutually exclusive, though you might forget that these days. Speaking of Nine Inch Nails, you can see the homage to Trent in every one of Vasquez’s movements. The way he holds the microphone, hanging his head or the cadence of his singing: it’s such a Reznor clone that Trent himself might have thought of it for some alternative marketing campaign. Despite the show being sold out and most people loving it, I was unimpressed. I looked at the moon above me, shinning bright enough to inspire bloodlust. This was a hard moon, hard and cold and deserving of a much worthier offering on a Friday the 13th. I thought to myself, disappointed at the night’s soft ending, “If I’m lying, I’m dying.”
I’ll leave you with a link to my review of last year’s Chamleonsvox show at Part Time Punks, a band The Soft Moon idolizes with no shortage of meaningful songwriting.
Words by: Rob Shepyer
Photos by: Grace Dunn