If I were to curate a soundtrack for the end of the world, it would include The Soft Moon. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that Luis Vasquez, the visionary behind The Soft Moon’s apocalyptic musical landscapes, dreams about the world’s end almost every other night.
The show was the Captured Tracks label San Francisco Showcase at Cafe Du Nord. Live, The Soft Moon fronts a four-piece band that features synths, percussion, and bass, while Vasquez provides vocals, guitar and more synths. The drone-like grooves, massive bass and synths convey images of gigantic metallic machines. Earthquake frequencies advance toward us, and voices announce the end of time with soft underwater screams. Over this turbulent atmosphere, Vasquez indulges in a performance self-described as cathartic. Moving convulsively onstage, his silhouette flashes from bright presence to nonexistence, in synch with the pulsing strobe lights.
The Soft Moon’s performance provided a multi-sensory experience that stretched beyond sound and image, hypnotizing the audience into anarchic mental and physical states. Generally labeled as post-punk, their music elicits feelings of chaos and despair-feelings that the audience could not get enough of as they cheered the band back onstage twice for encores.
After releasing two EPs and one full-length album rated highly by Pitchfork, the band is working on its second full-length album scheduled to be released this summer. All records have been released through Brooklyn label Captured Tracks, which contacted Vasquez in early 2009. Vasquez had posted three tracks onto MySpace. After two weeks of feeling uneasy about having the tracks online, Vasquez decided to take them down. The day before he did so, he received an e-mail from Captured Tracks.
The night’s bill was shared with Portland’s Blouse, who were also discovered by Captured Tracks after posting two tracks on their Bandcamp page. The four-piece band has a dream pop sound that blends steady beats with reverb-soaked pop melodies. Percussion-wise, Blouse, like the Soft Moon, exploits the best of both acoustic and electronic worlds, as the group features a full drum set enhanced by electronic pads. Vocalist/guitarist Charlie Hilton’s melodies lulled the audience with unhurried phrases and her placid stage presence.
Blouse’s sound is constructed with groovy bass patterns that develop into sustained rhythms, spacy synthesizer patches and Hilton’s vocals. Richer textures are achieved with layered synths and Hilton’s guitar. Most of the tracks, including “They Always Fly Away,” featured a soft four-count back beat groove. Songs from their self-titled debut album released in late 2011 comprised the evening’s set. The band is gearing up to take its chic stage presence on a 24-event European tour that will end at SXSW in Austin, Texas, this March.
The evening’s sold-out show at Cafe Du Nord forecasts a positive future for the two West Coast bands. One prepares to endure a heavy month and a half of touring to promote their debut record, and the other creates material for a sophomore album. Both find themselves with a strong following in North America and Europe, and have the creative energy to develop their sound beyond genre barriers.