The music of Soft Moon record number two, Zeros, isn’t far off from its self-titled 2010 predecessor, though the conditions under which it was recorded certainly are. Bandleader Luis Vasquez wrote and recorded The Soft Moon the way many unknown indie musicians do—in anonymity and personal solitude. And following the narrative of the indie musician lucky enough to have people catch on, Vasquez was able to recruit a band and go on tour, which is where and how Zeros came to fruition.
But sharing his music with the outside world hasn’t tampered with Vasquez’s nihilistic musical visions. On the flipside, Soft Moon’s sophomore effort isn’t necessarily any more introverted, either. If anything, he’s used an expanded musical worldview to inject even more sounds and textures into the band’s brew. In comparison to The Soft Moon, Zeros relies less on the familiar (guitars, synthesizer, traditional drum kits) and creates mood via more neo-industrial indulgences, which can be likened to air raid sirens, planes taking off, and giant sheets of metal being slammed together. Through all the cacophony, Vasquez’s sound remains remarkably streamlined; just about all of Zeros is held together by driving, propulsive rhythms that maintain momentum from track to track.
Zeros contains 10 individual songs, though, like its predecessor, it’s best expressed as a monolithic slab of music, and one ominous slab at that. By now, Vasquez must be well acquainted with the crowd of music fans he’s pleasing, and Zeros sounds like an affirming testament to that. That being said, Zeros is, fundamentally speaking, rather similar to its predecessor, and whether or not you have room for another Soft Moon record in your life might depend on how much of an affinity you have for Joy Division, industrial, early Swans, etc. Vasquez certainly isn’t tiring of this, as he’s fine-tuned his sound even further so it reflects its influences, yet still allows him to chase his personal muses.
What these personal muses are, exactly, is tough to pin down because of the almost complete lack of vocals. On The Soft Moon, Vasquez’s voice could be heard, though it was never central in the mix, often buried under layers of cantankerous production. On Zeros, Vasquez’s own voice is heard even less, and what we do hear is often merely unintelligible whispering or gasping. “I want it, can’t have it” on “Want”, Zeros’ next-to-last track is just about the most we get from Vasquez lyrically, on what also happens to be just about the most ominous, apocalyptic track on an album that’s extremely ominous and apocalyptic. The fact that it cuts off just before it seems about to climax and leads into a sparse, breathy two-minute closer only adds to the sense of impending doom that continues to pervade this project.