Show Review: The Soft Moon with Led Er Est and Chelsea Wolfe at The Independent, 10/31/2011

by Jonathan Pirro on November 1, 2011

Luiz Vasquez and Justin Anastasi of The Soft Moon

Luiz Vasquez and Justin Anastasi of The Soft Moon

One night a year, the darkest of spirits and the most mysterious of characters are summoned into the world at large to frighten, to amaze, to baffle, to worry, but definitely to excite the forces of peace that remain calm for the other 364 days. Rarely is there a better occasion for the spooky and the sibilant to make themselves known than on Halloween Night. In accordance with the popular holiday adage, however, it is always best to have some treats to go along with your tricks, and for the haunting act known as The Soft Moon, there was no better occasion to host their showcase of apocalyptic rhythms, droning dance pulses, and howling shrieks, all while bathed in a hellish display of strobing lights and unearthly projections. If ever there was a band better suited to usher in a new movement of smartly dark and morbidly interesting music, it would definitely be this San Francisco trio.

Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe

Despite being on a weeknight, the Halloween show kicked off at the late hour of 9:00pm by a delicately destructive performance from a nomadic California quartet known as Chelsea Wolfe. Blending an intricate combination of sludgy, doomy riffs with the Portishead-esque ethereal vocals of their eponymous frontwoman, the band ebbed between the danceably rocking and the slow but crushing in their numbers. Wolfe definitely took her leading role in stride; with the other band members cast almost entirely in shadow, her delicate voice wafted beautifully through the thunderous riffs that crashed down around her. Similarly blending the chaotic and the fragile was the New York trio Led Er Est, who mixed the nostalgic retro feel of early synthesizer rock with chugging, snarling riffs. Singer Samuel Kklovenhoof offered an element of humor to the otherwise morose and morbid evening, taking moments to yell at his onlookers and ruffle the hair of those who were insistent about being up front, in the few moments where he wasn’t offering his bellowing, wonderfully piercing voice to the night, which carried the delightful tape echo sound of Joy Division days long since passed.

ShawNoEQ of Led Er Est

ShawNoEQ of Led Er Est

Whereas their openers had offered songs that shifted between the cacophonous and the contemplative from number to number, The Soft Moon chose instead the route that had garnered their record so much praise: a constant barrage of pounding post-punk, freshly sealed with a layer of pulsing gothic rock to add a delicate finish. They offered a short introduction to their onlookers, amidst the haze of white noise and staggeringly pulsing images, before immediately tearing into their set with a fury and precision rarely seen in newer acts. Clad all in black, with disfigured transparent masks to offer an even more demonic look to their faces, the men of The Soft Moon used their costumes as a disturbing accompaniment to the crashing dance of imagery that was projected over them, while strobe lights exploded left and right like riot grenades.

Damon Way of The Soft Moon

Damon Way of The Soft Moon

The Soft Moon’s songs are brilliantly crafted, not only in production and style, but perhaps most importantly in breadth and length. The riffs and loops snag their listeners early on and pull them in with each successive measure, with vocalist Luis Vasquez offering up distorted, heavily processed shouts, creeds, and shrieks to accompany the hypnotizing melodies. Just at the moment where one might either begin descending into a lull of consciousness, whether in a trancelike state of intrigue or in a bothered state of repetition, the song abruptly grind to a halt, albeit often with raucous echoes or howling static. The jarring sensation associated with the sudden ending of each of their songs is, however, not unpleasant; if anything, it is as if the songs themselves realize the moment when they must come to an end, most often to offer their listeners a moment of clarity and revelation when they feel themselves drifting into a darkly powerful trance. All the while, the low lighting and wild spectacle of the projections and strobe lights offers a disturbing but massively stimulating visual accompaniment to each song.

Set the controls for the heart of the moon

Set the controls for the heart of the moon

Only an hour was offered to the trio, who took the shortness of their set in stride and packed a few new pieces from their Total Decay EP into the span of time. Despite claiming that they hadn’t the time for an encore, they returned, disheveled but definitely happy, for one final song after their main set had ended. Vasquez abandoned the black hoodie in favor of a pale Public Image Limited T-shirt and offered an even more energetic level of thrashing dance moves and chilling cries to the dénouement of the evening.

It is definitely difficult to pick out something rare and special for a Halloween show, and I always love the opportunity to see something completely unusual and different from the usual collection of shows, which often fall into the camp of either “massive freakshow/circus party” or “somber, dark-as-possible funeral procession”. The Soft Moon offers up a brilliant show that blasts its way through your system fast and furiously, while at the same time filling your veins with a gorgeous foreboding. If this is the sound to usher in the apocalypse, then I can’t wait for the world to end.

All photos by Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

More Posts - Twitter - Facebook

Read Also:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: