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"Total Decay EP"

The Soft Moon – Total Decay EP
08 November 2011, 07:59 Written by Andrew Hannah

It’s only 14 minutes long, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more brutal and nihilistic experience in 2011. What am I talking about? The Soft Moon, and their appropriately-named new EP Total Decay which mines a rich vein of morbid post-punk and steely industrial rock.

Although in the live arena The Soft Moon has three members, the recorded music is the work of San Franciscan Luis Vasquez alone. Following on from last year’s self titled debut full-length, the songs on this EP are horribly fascinating works of art, not so much songs as cold and alienating sculptures or brutalist structures, devoid of warmth or approachability. You might think I’m setting this up as a dressing-down for Total Decay, but the opposite is true. Vasquez has produced a quarter of an hour of intense music that despite seemingly wanting to be isolated bears repeated listens.

And so we begin with ‘Repetition’, which launches in from nowhere on a, yes, repetitive bassline that calls to mind Joy Division’s darkest moments, and as the track progresses various rising and falling synths squeal and buzz around it, before clattering percussion makes the mood more unsettling than it already was. Vasquez also “sings” on this track, although that amounts basically to some atonal yelps and shouts. ‘Alive’ begins with powerful drumming and spidery guitar before gut-wrenching bass and droning synths combine in cyclical patterns to create an air of foreboding, trapping the listener in a downward spiral (the Nine Inch Nails reference is accidental, yet an obvious comparison – although The Soft Moon approach matters with much less anger than Trent Reznor) as Vasquez chants then screams over the music in a possibly wordless and certainly impenetrable fashion.

The title track, ‘Total Decay’, slows things down with a funereal beat, and on top of this Vasquez places squalls of icy electro noise and more wordless vocals, this time creepily high-pitched and extremely unsettling. If Gaspar Noe wished to film more scenes in a cold and unforgiving underground nightclub, this track would be on repeat as he did so. It’s a challenge to listen to, that can’t be argued, but the reward for doing so is to uncover a piece of industrial music that wouldn’t be out of place alongside some of the finer industrial music of the 1980s and early 90s.

Final track ‘Visions’ combines about four different percussive rhythms over swirling machine noises, and there’s one particular noise that’s the most unsettling moment of the whole EP. If I say it gives me a headache to listen to, but in a good way, I hope this makes some kind of sense.

Out of nowhere ‘Visions’ comes to a stop, and that’s the EP over; Total Decay can be viewed as a stopgap release between albums for The Soft Moon, but it’s so much more than that. It will never be the most accessible release of 2011 but it’s worth at least 15 minutes of your time. By distilling what made the band’s debut album such an interesting prospect, and shortening the hit but increasing the intensity, Luis Vasquez has left an indelible mark on this year’s musical landscape.


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