The Soft Moon: Deeper

US darkwavers The Soft Moon muck around with the formula a bit and, sometimes it's great.

- I’m a little torn on Deeper, latest album from American darkwave band The Soft Moon out on Captured Tracks this month. It’s not like it’s any worse than their previous releases: quite the opposite, the sound on their latest album is more detailed and interesting than anything they’ve ever done before. But they’ve lost a little bit of their consistency, and a lot of that comes down to the vocals and the lyrics. Clearer here, and cleaner than their previous releases, when they work, they really add to the experience; but when they don’t, the album falls apart completely, and the dark, carefully constructed atmosphere that the music evokes at its best becomes impossible to take seriously. It’s a troubling direction for the band to take.

The second half of the album is pretty good. Wrong sounds a bit like early Nine Inch Nails, with staccato bursts of lo-fi synths over heavy post-punk drumming. The lyrics evoke a common sense of existential dread: “I’m in control of my decisions,” the singer offers. “You’re wrong,” Distorted vocals answer. “This pain I feel inside won’t die…” The singer continues. Distorted vocals answer: “You’re right.” This is where the album really shines, taking short bursts of words and phrases and building on them until they turn into something greater than the sum of their parts. Being takes an anguished, spoken sample and turns it into the vocal line for beautifully rendered electronic post-punk built around the sound of a rewinding tape.

Title track Deeper does a similar thing, with jungle drums and sawtooth synths under manic walls of noise and chanting. Unfortunately the dark illusion is shattered by occasionally cheesy lyrics, with songs like Black and Wasting taking away from the bleakness with clichéd, audible vocals that sound like they’d be better written on a motivational poster rather than a darkwave album. These first songs don’t entirely destroy the mood, but they come in quick succession early on, detracting from the bleak illusion maintained by the otherwise awe-inspiring sound.

It might not have been a problem if they hadn’t come so early, but Suicide-inspired opening track Inward isn’t strong enough to set the scene, and the tracks that follow it mean the first half of the album feels a little flat compared with the more consistent tone of their previous releases, and the half that follows it. It’s still a pretty powerful release, and worth a listen if you haven’t heard the band before, but if you were attracted to the consistent mood and energy of their previous releases, you might be disappointed.

- Matthew Stoff.

Album Details

Album Title: Deeper
Artist: The Soft Moon
Record Label: (Captured Tracks)