For more than three decades now, there has been an ongoing attempt to kill rock music and, generally speaking, the campaign has all but succeeded. Rock ‘n’ roll is limp and diseased while the movement to kill it has spawned new genres and pushed the envelope in multiple directions. The once mighty rock obelisk now seeks refuge among the soft-rock radio stations of the world while its unconventional, more volatile cousins occupy the brain centres of the young. Add the second full-length album from The Soft Moon to the ever-expanding list of saboteurs aimed at finishing off the traditionalists. Zeros hammers out a post-punk synth death trap sure to leave the old guard weary of the noise, skeptical of who could possibly call this music and wondering if the new world has even heard of a chorus before. Oakland’s Luis Vasquez is the demon child behind the Soft Moon project. He is known for his misfit version of post-punk darkwave, simultaneously drawing inspiration from and acknowledging the evolution of the genre. With Zeros, one can hear the rawness of bands like the Virgin Prunes, the primal pulse of Bauhaus and a smattering of The Cure all presented with a sense of urgency. Vasquez creates a highly contagious album that is caught in its own war between light and dark; uncomfortable, immensely claustrophobic and very, very danceable.
For the sake of logistics, there are track names on Zeros, but it is more or less useless to refer to them; it’s unlikely that a single track thrown in a random playlist would be satisfying on its own. Zeros has that rare quality in a record where the pieces fit seamlessly creating a matrix of flowing texture from start to finish. This is an album that needs to be played as a whole, rather than by individual tracks: its parts adding to the sum. It is disappointing that there are space gaps between the tracks because Zeros could easily pass for one complete 34 minute song that ebbs and flows through different emotions from total euphoria to something darker invoking a sudden fetal position. To further highlight Zero’s sense of unity the record starts with ‘It Ends’ and ends with its reciprocal track both musically and textually: ‘sbnE tI’ is the direct reverse of the opener and makes for a chilling finish to the record.
If you play Zeros regularly you might be struck with the urge to dawn on your Goth attire and keep it on for the whole year. Also, though, you will have the opportunity to indulge in an album that is frighteningly dark, but not in a cheap horror movie sort of way. Rather than have things jump out at you and say boo, Zeros will torment your soul slowly and with much more subtlety all the while tempting you to dance it off. The eeriness is accomplished by high-pitched synths that wail like banshees in a cavernous hole. What little vocals exist are usually whispering or breathing heavy in our ears drawing the listener uncomfortably close to raw human emotions amidst a stew of sub-human noise, all the while the quickened pulse of the album ensuring significant adrenaline flow throughout.
If you are not following the recommendation to take the album in as a whole, then navigate to ‘Want’ for a 3:38 tease where the insanity builds to what is sure to be an explosive climax, only to drop all consciousness into a sudden, jolting abyss. The track literally disappears before it has chance to finish leaving you wanting more, but such is life under The Soft Moon.
Zeros is a remarkable album in that it constitutes a memorable, meaningful ordeal, combining electronic spasms with post-punk spirit. It is not an album content with being played once or left somewhere in the background for ambient filler. Zeros yearns to grab and hold your attention, and will probably do so for years to come.