Ceremony are a punk band from Rohnert Park, California, just outside of San Francisco. For their Matador debut Zoo, produced by John Goodmanson (Blood Brothers, Sleater-Kinney, Girls, Weezer), the band have refined their jagged sound while continuing to pursue themes of exurban alienation and confinement. Zoo explores punk and post-punk traditions: the rhythm section remains as tense and propulsive as ever, while guitarist Anthony Anzaldo moves with ease from ringing power chords to stealthy leads reminiscent of Gang of Four and The Cramps.

The Soft Moon

Luis Vasquez did not expect to stumble upon The Soft Moon again. He buried those feelings over a decade ago beneath the sands of the Mojave Desert — where, in younger days, he played in local punk bands, all while absorbing the propulsive Afro-Cuban songs that permeated family gatherings. Restless, Vasquez relocated to Los Angeles, traveled around South America, and eventually settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. But, like a reoccurring dream, the specters of that past life returned, compelling Vasquez to revisit what made him originally conjure The Soft Moon in that relentless desert climate. Through The Soft Moon, Vasquez consolidates his disparate musical talents for playing both analog equipment and live instruments. Frigid synth chords, foreboding bass-guitar riffs, and vintage drum machine hark back to the experimental sonic palette of early 80s post-punk. But, Vasquez invests that raw electronic sound with the frenetic pathos of Afro-Cuban music, fracturing the familiar in a strangely resonant way. Hypnotic songs weaving lonely, nearly apocalyptic tales, hinge greedily on demanding more out of life — on sucking the marrow out of the vast desert skies. Repetitive vocals chant in a haunting whisper over hazy atmospherics, spinning like whirling dervishes around a cold glimmer of redemption. The Soft Moon manages to inspire warm revelry in the midst of such a stark environment, allowing a merciless freedom to emerge from a landfill of discarded memories. Vasquez sees the effort as an "introspective ritual," one that forges personal release and restoration. With each song he reconciles with the rubble from his past, unveiling a disjointed story of self-discovery. Yes, nostalgia colors every recess of The Soft Moon, from its inception to its aesthetic, but this sort of life-affirming nostalgia prefers hope to paralysis. It undertakes to revive innocent feelings dulled by the grind of adulthood. It longs to channel the driving indigenous rhythms clouded in the dance of Diaspora and assimilation. It reaches for something necessary and permanent in the throws of fleeting desire. And although Vasquez may not regain what he lost, he ends up creating utterly engaging and moving music in the process.

Total Control

Australia's Total Control grace us with two stellar new tracks of moody garage/post-punk. The band is led by Daniel Stewart (Straightjacket Nation, UV Race) and Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Ooga Boogas), and this single comes on the heels of their excellent, massively-hyped Henge Beat LP and split-LP with Thee Oh-Sees. Both songs are exclusive to this release.

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