Music Reviews

The Soft Moon Exister

(Sacred Bones) Rating - 8/10

Luis Vasquez, a.k.a. The Soft Moon, used a childhood photo of himself on the cover of his latest album, Exister. Stylistically angular and thickly rendered, the cover obscures the boy’s face, with horizontal strokes hiding his eyes. When the context of Vasquez’s at times danceable and thoroughly emotive purge is absorbed, his antagonists both personal and significant given weight, it’s as if—by covering the boy’s eyes—Vasquez is attempting to shield this version of himself from the trauma that informs it. 

Throughout his tenure as The Soft Moon, Vasquez has occupied an evocative space. When Him surfaced, the first single released for Exister, all of its sound and vision (and even Vision Street Wear if you’ve seen the video) immediately sent me back to a time and place. When you hear a song like Become The Lies, its magnetic bass riff and heavy factorial stomp, not to mention Vasquez’s highly expressive vocal performance, it’s implausible that a song like that wouldn’t have gained some mainstream traction during the peak of popularity that Nine Inch Nails enjoyed when singles from Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral were inescapable and ubiquitous. 

Exister, though, especially in terms of its emotional clarity, enables Vasquez to own his mode of conveyance, evocative or not. “I feel sick every day…” is the first stanza of album opener Sad Song, a blanket symptom that runs its course throughout the length of the album. A slow burn with swells of ethereal drone, Sad Song sets up a block of electro-driven, propulsive, and tonally dark tracks, the immediate transition to Answers waking things up. “Lies define, define my life,” Vasquez sings, a rush of tonal showers set to a steady pulse. The aforementioned Become The Lies is an album highlight, Vasquez exhibiting pop-level chops and a vocal melody that’ll live in your head long after you’ve lifted the needle. The same can be said for Monster, whose ancestry finds a common thread with the darker side of Depeche Mode. 

Fans of Killing Joke will enjoy Face Is Gone and The Pit, the restless energy of both acting as tension scaffolds with which to layer atmosphere, the latter exuding a tad more dread. Not too far removed from the modern dark wave of Alaric, NADA has a loosened stride and an eeriness manifested through both the gravely guitar sound and subsequent buzz that cuts through the mire. The simulated siren of an oncoming ambulance announces the hardcore length of Stupid Child. For Him, Vasquez shares vocal duties with fish narc, a prominent Soundcloud rap producer known for his work with the late Lil Peep. With a sharp line of dotted bass notes driving the track, the pair dust off the Wax Trax! dance hall a bit for what is the album’s first single, fish narc’s flamboyant vocal delivery softened by Vasquez’s melodies.

Unforgiven follows with another collaborative single meant more as catharsis than an enticement. Featuring Alli Logout of punk rock band Special Interest, the track is circuit-laden stress, shrieks set to heavy stomps and skip-paced loops of rapid percussion. “You fuck with my failures/When you know that I’m/Ashamed/And I’m/To blame!” Vasquez screams, committed and vulnerable. The comedown of the title track, some level of glory communicated in its runtime, offers the moment at which you hope Vasquez’s sickness is no longer a daily occurrence and some healing has been had.