Fresh from their shows at the Palladium where they opened for Nine Inch Nails and The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Soft Moon headlined their own gig at the Regent theater on Tuesday, following two other interesting acts, the Aussie band VOWWS and the electronic duo HIDE. Needless to say, the night was dark while the dancefloor was very goth, and the large crowd that had filled up the venue was another proof of Los Angeles’ insatiable thirst for post-punk music.
LA-via-Sydney VOWWS were dressed up for the job, as they started the party with a creepy Halloween soundtrack and melodies so catchy that it was impossible not to fall in love with the dark side they opened. Of course, they were carrying their influences all over their long black coats, and sometimes their so-called death pop style sounded like Depeche Mode in a haunted house, but Matt James’ somber baritone was surfacing with confidence above their mature industrial goth soundtrack, while Rizz, behind her synth, added a girl dimension to their dark harmonies. Whether the crowd had heard of them or not, people seemed to love them, embracing their strange and fascinating detours around the dark waves of their anxious synth and pulverizing drums. There was something deeply romantic about their very cinematic set, reinforced by the visuals projected on the screen behind them, a sort of boy and girl harmonies as if Dave Gahan was looking for his Elvira, however, the songs of their latest release, ‘Under the World’, and 2015 album ‘The Great Sun’, were reflecting a unique spine-chilling vision despite the obvious suspects dancing in the shadows.
HIDE was pure scary industrial electronica with singer Heather Gabel dancing between darkness and heavy fog. She was screaming above the metallic sounds produced by Seth Sher’s electronic table, but the stage during their set was so dark, despite an occasional stroboscopic light, that it was difficult to realize what was really happening. Gabel’s chant was more a lament than anything else, between haunting and hunting, while the cacophonic chainsaw and heavy tool machinery were competing with her agony. The duo has released an album this year, whose title, ‘Castration Anxiety’, may give you the right idea of their overall mood, but I would say that their set was a bold experiment into noise and gothic atmosphere, driven by a heavy angst, probably announcing the slaughter of humanity or the complete apocalypse by the end of their set.
Producer, singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist Luis Vasquez was the center of attraction during The Soft Moon’s entire set. The music, which has been described as inspired by anxiety, was a fear-driven, anger-unleashing number, with a succession of percussion-manic moments, as we watched Vasquez beat the hell out of a large metallic garbage can, on the edge of the stage. Heavy on bass, synth, and distortion, the industrial dance was mostly focused on Vasquez going from his Moog synth to a distorted guitar and back to the trashcan, with restless energy.
Contrarily to your usual darkwave, the pace of the music was going to the speed of light, while Vasquez’s vocals reached far higher notes than your favorite industrial dark baritone. The result was a violent collage of industrial textures shaken by exploding beats and executed with unhinged urgency and liberating energy. The titles of the songs were as direct and precise as the assault-like delivery, as Vasquez, assisted by Luigi Pianezzola on bass and Matteo Vallicelli on drums, performed tracks from his 2018 release, ‘Criminal’, as well as older songs from his 2015 ‘Deeper’, 2012 ‘Zeros’, and 2010 self-titled album.
The entire show looked like a furious battle to survive the chaos, a hard-hitting spectacle executed with a wave of sweaty anger you only encounter at punk shows, connecting with the crowd at a very emotional and personal level. These songs were not about storytelling, the words (barely audible) were sent like sharp weapons searching for a target through the heavy climatic soundtrack.
In the end, it is very easy to understand why The Soft Moon got an opening spot for Nine Inch Nails, the same pain is at the core of the industrial sound which oscillates between pure aggression and deeply layered krautrock. The titles songs of the last album could not be heavier: ‘Burn’, ‘Choke’, ‘Like a Father’, ‘Give Something’, ‘The Pain’, which starts by the devastating line ‘How can you love someone like me’… However, the execution was triumphant, and this thick noisy wall that the band was building, will stand strong as long as kids need to exorcize inner demons and childhood trauma on the dancefloor.
Like a Father
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