Morose, introspective sound-shifter Luis Vasquez records alone, under the name The Soft Moon. He is a soloist in the most profound sense of the word—a guy who seems deeply, deeply alone. His self-titled debut—a fuzzy, static-filled self-exploration—wasn’t even intended for public consumption. But to the public’s credit, the album gained critical acclaim and a large following. In 2012 he released Zeros, another compilation of loud, moody sounds.
The Soft Moon’s third album, Deeper, is Vasquez’s most solitary yet, an undiluted expression of the musician. Vasquez worked with producer Maurizio Baggio in Italy to craft the desolate, violent soundscape that is more fully realized than previous Soft Moon releases.
Deeper’s tone is darkly industrial, like nuclear fallout coming from your stereo. The loud, crumbling persistence echoes NIN’s masterpiece The Downward Spiral in its mess of deafeningly intense electronic noise. On “Black,” a squashed, clobbering beat and crackling swells of electro-fuzz are harsh enough to bruise. The shaky drum rolls and flare-gun-like synth shots on “Desertion” sound like the climax of a really good spy movie.
For all its introspection and dark solitude, Deeper includes some pretty catchy stuff. On “Far,” a pulsing, energetic synth backdrop is interrupted by rapid-fire rhythms and little robotic sneaker screeches. You can totally dance to it. “Wrong” plays like house music in a Sin City nightclub with surging funky bass, slick computerized drumstick taps, and stretching robotic vocals. Those tunes are at once poppy and gothic, like nostalgic bursts of Cure-esque fun.
Vasquez is vocally tripolar, switching among fully processed screaming, peripheral whispers, and soft, breathy croons. In Deeper’s finest moments—like the soft revealing on “Without”—he sings in his own, unadorned voice. Lacking the album’s cold context, some of Vasquez’s lyrics might come off as self-indulgent teen poetry. (“I feel so empty inside/ Why am I alive?/Why are we alive?”) But there’s no pretension here. Clearly this is a glimpse into the musician’s true dark mind. On “Being” Vasquez chants over a mess of skipping tape loops: “I can’t see my face/I don’t know who I am/What is this place?/ I don’t know where I am?” Those lyrical wisps morph into a wrenching scream that ends the album in a blaze of honesty.
Deeper is musically complex but emotionally simple: the essence of its creator. Vasquez tours with a live band, but I hope he never records with them. There’s room for other people on stage but not inside his solitary, tortured skull.