Friday, 27 August 2010

Mark Van Hoen - Day of the Locust Album

Call me old skool, call me old-fashioned, but I’ve just discovered Mark Van Hoen’s Locust album, ‘Weathered Well’, and it sounds damn good. It was made in ’94, but doesn’t sound ‘old’ to me. Mind you, I’m no expert on the gadgetry timeline when it comes to electronic music, so I can’t place it in time by the instruments used.
   A combination of the latest bit of kit and mediocre talent will age a record sure enough; dance music is littered with examples. But major talent as possessed by Stockhausen or Subotnik ensures longevity. Then again, they weren’t aiming to fill a ‘floor, were they? Or satisfy anyone but themselves. I read an interview with Paul Weller today in which he dismisses the idea of an artist aiming to please himself first and foremost. He said something like ‘Well, stay in your bedroom then’. Eh? Just who is The Modfather trying to please when he makes a record? Does he have the retired scooterist in mind? This may account for the mediocrity of everything he’s done since killing off The Jam.
   I doubt that Van Hoen was aiming to satisfy anyone but himself when he made ‘Weathered Well’. As for instruments, here’s what he used:
   Synthesizers: Digisound Modular, Aries Modular, Oberheim SEM, Moog Rogue, Yamaha CS80, Pearl Analog Drumkit Module, Yamaha DX7, Korg Wavestation A/D.
   Effects: TOA DDL, Maplin Analog Echo, GBS Reverb, Roland GP8 Guitar FX, Locust Ring Modulator, Morley Phaser, Cry Baby Wah-Wah, Revox B77.
   The list reminds me of the buzz I used to get reading what Herbie Hancock played during his second great fusion phase (‘Thrust’ etc). The names conjured up The Future, as if they might also apply to robots, space stations and planets. Well back in the 70s you could say it did signal the big, bold brave new world of sound. Today an instrument check is less impressive, in a way. But perhaps techno-nerds do go all gooey with nostalgia for the Oberheim SEM.
   The long shadow of Vangelis’s ‘Blade Runner’ inevitably falls over a lot that goes on here, but it doesn’t prevent Van Hoen from shining, and besides, it’s influenced virtually everything in the realms of futurist electronica. Influence as opposed to pale imitation, in this case, can only be a good thing. That aside, you can guess the rest...Kraftwerk (of course), and Klause Schulze.
   ‘Music About Love’ is a tour de force; one of the tracks that’s up-tempo and tears along like he’s giving that Oberheim a good hammering. I imagine him in a frenzy of programming – ‘Now I’ll throw in the Cry Baby Wah-Wah!’ Is there a better name for an instrument in the whole world of instruments? It’s followed by the cast iron bone-crusher that is ‘Lust’, which may pummel your head in one sense, but in another demonstrates great restraint...a kind tension between the relentless beat and the cybertronic choral accompaniment lead by Aries Modular, I shouldn’t wonder. And if he existed, shouldn’t he be in an electronic vocal band remaking ‘Float On’? ‘Hi, my name’s Modular, and I’m Aries’. Perhaps not.
   ‘Fawn’ has a great spook-in-the-machine atmosphere, enhanced by tubular bells and phantom vocals by something that is not human.
   ‘Pithano’ does sound a little dated, only because to me it seems to be infected with the Rave virus. I can imagine it being a hit with those young people who liked to gather in fields, illegally. Even so, Van Hoen isn’t one for the show-stopping big beat, more the muted thump.
   Weathered well? I think it has, and it’s worthy of the rerelease it got earlier this year.

1 comment:

  1. The next (?) Locust album, Truth Is Born of Arguments, was pretty good too - dense and dark, some nice Muslimgauze-ish beats. I remember listening to Weathered Well, but nothing about how it sounds now!

    Although, one thing about that next album is that I couldn't figure out whether the entire package was taking the piss. At the height of minimalist, abstract cover art it had a blonde model pouting all over it and track titles such as 'The Love You Cruelly Gave Me Would Not Last' and 'I Feel Cold Inside Because Of The Things You Say'.

    I remember the titles so many years later because I found them so hilarious and they became an in-joke among my mates. I hope it was some kind of joke, or at least just deliberately railing against the prevailing trends... but then he did start doing sort of mopey 4AD stuff after that I think?

    (michael from dissensus btw)


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