The Soft Moon

This is a band that makes “music for the end of the world,” as it declares grandiosely on its Facebook page, and though it’s highly likely that the term “the end” is intended in the most obvious sense, The Soft Moon (is that how it looks when liquefying over the bay?) does hail from San Francisco, so perhaps what Justin Anastasi, Keven Tecon, Luis Vasquez, and Damon Way are undertaking is meant more along the lines of a sonorous “voyage au bout de la nuit.” And what a night it is that these four take us through!

The visual aspect of their videos is interesting in its own right (and there’s a noteworthy bit of local history stretching out behind it) and it can be fun to watch the band perform live – but I’d suggest that one close one’s eyes for a while and just listen to its thunder and see (pardon that expression) how different it makes one feel, and, in a very strange way, how much reinvigoration it brings. I shall not invoke any number of fashionable terms or names to describe this experience, but simply state that the sound of The Soft Moon does successfully insert itself into the body – it could be called “acoustipuncture” – whereas any number of other bands only manage to make mere ear-splitting noise.

Some months ago The Soft Moon performed in Amsterdam; I regret that I only heard of the band afterwards.

The band’s videos are works in their own right, full of visual static and reverberations and areas of light used as formal elements, all sequenced together – edited and stretched out – with skill: they can actually be watched. (Here too this band succeeds where so many others only make an ocular mess.) Now, those of a certain age or with long memories may be forgiven for thinking that they’ve seen this all before, for in fact with these videos The Soft Moon is bringing something specifically San Franciscan full circle: namely, the first musical lightshows as devised by the artist Seymour Locks sixty years ago, long before the 1960s (and eclipsed by that later decade) and coeval in fact with the Beat Poets’ early period, lightshows which, in this form, compressed into two dimensions, are being transported into the present.

Whether the term “end” befits such a procedure, or whether a quite different one is better, is a question.

(Concerning Seymour Locks and his role in this history, Robin Oppenheimer, David E. James, and Golan Levin may be consulted, and also the overview by Robert R. Riley, in his short contribution to the book The San Francisco Tape Music Center (University of California Press), “Liquid to Light.”)