Album Review: The Soft Moon – ‘Criminal’

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From coldwave revival to post-hardcore tinged industrial rock, The Soft Moon – aka Luis Vasquez – has definitively gone nu-goth with Criminal, and that’s not a bad thing.

A debut as fresh as it was cold, The Soft Moon was a new and big player in the post-punk scene, at the time rivalling Women and Ice Age for the throne. After the soundscape synths and groovy bass lines bored him, however, a turn towards dance punk was beginning – Zeros was decent but lacked precision, then Deeper was mellower than any good dance record should allow.

The new direction had not been working until now. Criminal takes the ice-locked atmosphere of previous LPs and thrusts it into space with ethereally polytonal vocal riffs drenched in reverb, straight from Deftones’ songbook. The Soft Moon’s basslines are still groovy and atmospheric, but now with impending doom impressed upon the nu-goth synthpunk. Vasquez’s work in electronics has improved too, with a full-on distorted sub-bass EBM sound often at 160bpm.

Sadly, Criminal brings nothing contemporary that even Gary Numan hasn’t been trudging through for years. It’s a good record, but it doesn’t attempt to reinvent industrial; rather, it recycles ideas from Gary Numan with a bit of nu-metal stylings thrown in for good cause.

Electronic music is no longer underground, meaning it’s everywhere. Trap exists, and Algiers are playing with it in an industrial-gospel setting. UK Bass exists, and Sd Laika is playing with it in an electro-industrial setting. And take everything bad about the modern rave scene (gabber, for instance) – Machine Girl is messing it up with a more industrial mindset than modern Nine Inch Nails records. Even emo rappers Corbin and Yung Lean make more convincing modern industrial music.

The Soft Moon’s latest album doesn’t need to exist, but it fits its purpose better than a lot of other revivalists. Take it or leave it, it’s a great throwback record.

[Tess Dawson]

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