Memories of childhood trauma, misplaced guilt and self-hatred have aligned to provide The Soft Moon – aka Luis Vasquez – with an intense opportunity to “cross the line” and produce another incredible record. The Berlin-via-Oakland artist released his fourth album Criminal last week through Sacred Bones, and it’s a gripping, teeth-grinding, ultra-cathartic affair.
Fans of Nine Inch Nails will be hooked on this industrial-electronic gem that seethes with internal and external conflict from the moment opening track ‘Choke’ kicks in. It’s a brutal offering with its warped vocals and pervasive, aggravated synth noises. Second track ‘Give Something’ is another desolate soundscape, drenched in reverb accompanied by Vasquez’ high, cautious vocals which ring with anxious urgency: “I don’t wanna lose my mind, that’s why I keep you so close”.
‘Like A Father’ is reminiscent of the tortured but inherently infectious sounds on NINs’ 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine. “This guilt is a problem….this hate is a problem” sings Vasquez, using this track as a turbulent, abrasive effort to work through the pain and confusion of a clearly damaged paternal relationship. ‘The Pain’ is as intense as its namesake; it’s uncomfortable, but deeply absorbing and oddly easy to move to. It bleeds in to ‘It Kills’ which is written in the same vein. Waves of loud synthetic noise contrast superbly with the Vasquez’s soft vocals.
‘ILL’ seethes with relentlessly dark, sickly-synth sounds and heart-aggravating percussion. Permeating your bloodstream like a virus, it’s hard to purge this brief instrumental from your listening memory. ‘Young’ provides some respite from the intensity of the previous track, but it still pummels listeners with waves of cleanly-cut, overwhelming, intrusive electronic noise. Following track ‘Born Into This’ is equally as engaging.
The eponymous ‘Criminal’ is an un-nerving end to this exploration of pain, paranoia, and the purging of the many violent and conflicting demons that have shaped Vasquez’s thought processes.“Guilt is my biggest demon and has been following me since childhood. Everything I do strengthens the narrative that I am guilty” Vasquez reflects. The Soft Moon’s panic-inducing, confessional writing style means this deceptively named artist is not for the faint-hearted – but he is for those who are brave enough to confront the thoughts that have pushed them to, and ultimately pulled them back from the brink.
Criminal is available to stream/download now.