By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Started when Bay Area musician Luis Vasquez was still playing with noted local neo-psych band Lumerians, his home-recording project that would become The Soft Moon was initially intended only for himself and a few friends. Instead, Vasquez would reach a global audience with the bleak, hypnotic sounds of the act’s self-titled 2010 debut, a fan base that has only grown with each subsequent release.
Offering up a pulsing, synthesizer-driven sound that mixed driving Krautrock rhythms with the post-punk angst of Suicide and Bauhaus as well as touches of modern dark-wave influences, The Soft Moon earned rave notices from fans and critics on both sides of the Atlantic. While the debut was recorded with Vasquez playing every instrument, he would assemble a live band to recreate his songs onstage.
The Soft Moon toured extensively, delivering a stark presentation of the music that at first was powered by just a drum machine and accompanied by nearly seizure-inducing projections. Vasquez recorded the follow-up Total Decay EP before his proper sophomore effort Zeroes in 2012 took the Soft Moon sound into even darker, more claustrophobic territory. A new live line-up of the band become a popular live attraction in Europe with continued touring on the continent.
Vasquez took his time with the next Soft Moon effort, assembling songs after decamping from Oakland and moving to the mountains outside of Venice in Italy to record with producer Maurizio Baggio. The resultant album Deeper came out in late March of 2015 and was hailed by some as the most compelling Soft Moon effort Vasquez has produced yet, matching some of his bleakest soundscapes yet with beguiling melodies.
Two years ago, the Soft Moon was slated to return to the United States for an extensive tour supporting iconic British post-punk band Killing Joke, but health issues with one of the headliner’s members led to a cancellation. Instead, Vasquez decided to embark on a headlining tour of his own, delivering his intense, strobe-light heavy live show to fans across the country.
On the Soft Moon’s fourth album Criminal (and his first for noted indie label Sacred Bones), Vasquez conjures up a sound that is perhaps even more desperate, channeling elements of classic Gary Numan (album opener “Burn” strongly echoes Numan’s hit single “Berserker”) and Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails. Vasquez and the current live trio of the band play songs from the new record at the Independent in San Francisco Wednesday, sharing the stage with Massachusetts-based dark wave duo Boy Harsher and Oakland’s own industrial/electro act Cube.
The Soft Moon
Wednesday, April 11, 7:30 p.m. $16-$18