Photo Gallery/Gig Review: The Soft Moon w/ Left Spine Down and Koban at Venue, Vancouver (2 February 2016)
A broader spectrum of “dark” music exists than we have had the time or the resources to cover so far in this site’s 17 months of existence; however we do aspire to address that discrepancy whenever the opportunity arises, such as The Soft Moon’s recent show at Venue.
But let us start with the question of dark music in Vancouver: aside from its burgeoning metal scene and longstanding punk community, the presence of other genres of aggressive, transgressive, or simply dark and moody music is more obscure in the city but noteworthy nevertheless. From the cold minimalism of Sistrenatus’ dark ambient work to the primal neofolk of Night Profound or Worker’s nihilistic power electronics, established genres of darker music do find local representation.
Since our introduction to Koban‘s groove-laden coldwave at a Bestial Mouths show two years ago, we have watched with interest as the band continues to discover its sound and style. Releasing their second collection of songs on EP Vide in the summer of 2014, the duo (collectively producing synth, drum, and vocal parts with Brittany West on bass and Samuel Buss on guitar) have toured the U.S. and EU, and regularly perform in Vancouver. Their set at last week’s show demonstrated new confidence and introduced similarly assured material from their upcoming full-length album and was, for this reviewer, the highlight of the show. We spoke with Britt and Sam briefly after their set:
By contrast, Left Spine Down falls on a more industrial-rock wavelength of the dark music spectrum, firmly entrenched in a groove with bands like Pitchshifter and Mindless Self Indulgence. Their set, led by vocalist Kaine Delay’s dramatic showmanship, clearly connected with a prominent group of local fans.
One would never have suspected The Soft Moon had recently lost their touring gear to theft a few nights before their Vancouver performance – the band played an intense set that showcased frontman Luis Vasquez’s multi-instrumental performance on guitar and synth, tethering his ethereal whispers to urgent basslines and crisp percussion. Sparse, arid rhythmic structures smoldered beneath synths growling with menace, yet the overall effect was as hypnotic as detached. That quality may be present in coldwave music generally, but Vasquez’s songwriting applies a heavy blanket of anxiety reminiscent of Trent Reznor’s work as Nine Inch Nails, which builds a similar form of looming peril but grants the listener plenty of opportunity for release; The Soft Moon never lets the listener step out of its stifling shadow and, arguably, listeners have not fully experienced the music until this claustrophobic sense of futility takes hold – even as we continue to tap our feet.