Morning Light (1997)
Reissued on vinyl in 2015 by Medical Records
All titles produced, arranged and mixed at Pravda Studio, London, by Mark Van Hoen
All titles engineered by Mark Van Hoen, except 'Morning Light', 'Shadow Play' and 'On The Horizon', which were partly recorded by Mark Brydon at FON, Sheffield.
Mastered at Metropolis by Ian Cooper and Tony Cousins
JAI GURU DEV
All love will come to those who listen
Photography by Robin Grierson
Sleeve design: DasPasCals
Evening Standard August 97 The opening chords of 'Definitely Maybe'. Tricky's 'Aftermath'. Now and again a record leaps out of the bass-bins and slaps you around the noggin with sheer God-given genius. In terms of effect, Locust's new album, Morning Light reminds me of my throbbing, slack-jawed astonishment at hearing Portishead for the first time. The two bands don't sound alike, mind, but along with Zoe Niblet and vocalist Craig Bethell Locust's Mark Van Hoen arrives armed with enough fractured techno rhythms and unforgettable choruses to become the next undisputed King of Bedsitworld.
Require a convenient pigeonhole? Cross Massive Attack with This Mortal Coll, then think again. Van Hoen weaves dark synths with slow, clanking beats, yet the melodies are inspirational, uplifting even. You'll simultaneously want to top yourself and rush up to a complete stranger and snog them senseless. Some find this effect disturbing. Clubbing bible Muzic magazine greeted Locust's last release with: 'Evil incarnate - Mark Van Hoen needs to get out more.'
'I'm fascinated with chart music being influenced by the avant garde, and mums being into records that sound like a Stockhausen composition,' retorts Mark, who spent his formative troubled teens in Worcester before decamping to London in the late Eighties. 'I remember 'Ghosts' by Japan got to number two when I was a kid. Everyone was whistling it in the streets, but really if you listen to it the music is insane, a collection of bleeps and noises.'
In short, if you like music packaged and predictable, shop elsewhere. Morning Light even features an extraordinary technold version of The Carpenters' standard 'No-one in The World'. You're not trying to tell me the Carpenters are cool, young man? 'Yeah, why not? They're part,of my childhood, what Mum used to play while doing the ironing. It reminds me of not having any worries.' Buy this record with money.
The Guardian 11/7/97 Inspired by Larie Anderson's 'O Superman', apparently, which sounds like an excellent reason for avaoiding this album. But you would miss a subtle delight, whose relation to Anderson's fidgety hit begins and ends with layers of breathy electronica. Mastermind Mark Van Hoen blends disparate elements-female vocals, trumpet, a Carpenters sample- into a filmy whole that elevates the status of socalled background music. Lyrics tend to be slurred into unintelligibility, fitting the mood and mercifully disguising howelers such as "Look at the clouds they're as black as the night. Go sack the weatherman cos he didn't get it right" A bit of a winner
4/5 Caroline Sullivan
Mojo, July 97 First Everything But The Girl go junglist, and now Locust's Mark Van Hoen produces an album of haunting late,night vocal melodies: what next, Aphex Twin to record a Celine Dion tribute album? The veritable plague of singers and lyric writers that swarms' over this constantly surprising record is somehow prevented from nibbling away at Its individual character.. Permanent fixtures Craig Bethell and Zoe Niblett, and numerous guests Including Mojave 3's Neil Halstead, contribute a variety of melodious warbling techniques, without ever compromising the overall tone of electric melancholy. 'Summer Rain' verges on the coffee table, drum'n'bass of Lamb and their anaemic Ilk, but 'No-one In The World' is electronic Carpenters of the very highest quality.
Muzic June 97 A radical change from his dark ambient days, "Morning Light" proves Mark Van Hoen has
production skills to die for. Plunging into a dense jungle of electronic folk music, his pastoral
visions and acoustic weirdness make for fascinating listening, even if few of the guest voaclists are
equal to his squills. Nick Drake, Dead Can Denace and Lamb are all clear influences. Nearly great.
Select June 97
With a name that conjures up images of plague, pestilance and a vengeful God, you'd expect
Locust to dress head to toe in cling-fit black denim and bellow "Are you ready to RAWK!" every
five minutes. In fact, they're the spiritual children of Tricky, The Beatles 'Strawberry Fields' and
Laurie Anderson's 'O Superman'- according to head honcho Mark Van Hoen.
What this means is some lo-fi drum'n'bass in the background, while various ethereal types coo
dreamily abolut their lovelorn tribulations-a surptisingly pleasant combination.
Sunday Times 6/7/97
MARK VAN HOEN aka Locust has an intriguing party trick: visual sampling. He chops up videos of other musicians playing and puts them together to make new music (and new visuals) just as others do with audio samples. He tried this out at a gig in London on Thursday, which was kept very quiet indeed lest a swarm of intellectual property lawyers descend on the venue to inquire why their clients' images were being used in this way. Fortunately for those of us, who don't often get to such hushhush gigs Van Hoen has, another good trick, too: he makes music that manages, to remind you of Massive Attack without it simply being another slavish trip-hop copy. Van Hoen isn't jumping on, any bandwagons here.. His music actually doesn't sound much like Massive Attacka all; but he has that same innate sense of space. Just like them, he knows, how to conjure molodies from air around the notes. Add a team of no less than six vocalists, and the result is an album that's a pleasure to wallow around in.
Melody Maker Aug 98
If you're only aware of them from last year's "Morning Light" album, then you don't yet know LOCUST. Their too-often listless charms are utterly transformed live, as if a big,
fat, hypodermic of industrial-strength adrenalin has been plunged directly into their heart, No longer satisfied with merely whispering in the background, those same
songs tonight slice through the crowd like random tattoos of gunfire.
As video loops of Joni Mitchell trilling "Big Yellow Taxi" and Steve Jones crunching out the first few bars of "Pretty Vacant" are flashed onto screens above the stage, the mesmeric groove begins to uncoil. Like TinkerbelI trapped within some garish magic lantern vocalist, Zoe Niblett screams out her Technicolored torch songs as the images and music carousel around her.
Melody bleeds into melody, each one reminiscent of some long-lost classic and, as old tunes like "I am the murderer" segue into new tracks such as the massive "All your Own Way", each phat, dub-soaked riff shudders into the next like a multi-vehicle pile-up remixed by Lee Scratch Perry.
No encores. The last intoxicating mantra of "You can scream, but it won't make a difference to me" envelops this hall like the sweet fug of caramelised sugar. And then they're gone; Locust have flown to wreak more glorious havoc.
Ministry August 1997 Karen Carpenter's face fiIIs the screen; a grainy '60s image projecting onto a whitewashed wall in the basement of a sleepy East End brewery. Her mouth opens in jerky slow motion and out saiIs the chorus from the speakers: "I think I'm gonna be sad, I think it's today. "
In the darkness, people stare in amazement at the screen above three silhouettes of a band... club visuals don't speak. Not unless you're reasonably insane or have been over-doing it on the vitamin C.
This event is a private party hosted by a band called Locust. There's one on a guitar, another on drums, and two singers enhancing their moody, electronic laced sound. When I listened to their CD at home, I fell asleep. I'm not sure what that means, but the gig is an improvement on the average screensaver-style visuals associated with electronic acts.
Locust's performance is dominated by the 35-minute video film on show above their heads. It's the work of band creator Mark Van Hoe'n who's spent hours videoing snippets from televised music footage.
As the sampled TV clip of Karen Carpenter appears on the screen, her voice simultaneously flows out of the speakers, creating a fascinating audio and visual chorus line. In another frame, a Iive shot of a guitar being played appears and forms part of the melody you can both see and hear. The musical science gets pushed even further when the rectangular screen image splits into quarters with each one displaying different soundmaking samples in sync with Locust's live performance.
As the show progresses, Jimi Hendrix makes an appearance on guitar, a classical glockenspielist knocks out a riff and Steve Jones strums a few chords. This is the kind of fantastic audio-visual trickery that could put drug dealers out of business. But unfortunately, a public display is temporarily out of the question due to the legalities of using such material. It would take an arm and a leg from the entire population of Basingstoke to pay the legal costs for such a show to hit the road. So for the time being, we'lI have to make do with LSD. Not ideal, and a potentially fatal way to make anything from soiled laundry to wallpaper sing in time to a beat.
Mixmag Aug 97 It's a piss up. It's an experimental anudio-visual extravangza in London'd East-End. It's a gruelling, not entirely legal, trainspotting test of the last 50 odd years of recorded music. It's an evening's entertainment destined to be an 'interesting experience' at the very least. It's a gig by Locust (aka Mark Van Hoen, R&S's premier ambient experimentalist turned melancholic ethereal popster) to promote his new album 'Morning Light'. It's strange, probably unique and has a large chunk of London's great and good and, er, music-business types packed into the converted brewery (hence the piss-up tag) Venue.
The plot? Well, Mark, like most other dance music sorts, is fond of using the odd sample or ten in his compositions. But for him, this isn't enough. So, for every sample used tonight, a corresponding snippet of video footage is projected onto the huge backdrop behind the band. When Mark fancies a little loop of Noel Gallagher strumming his guitar, up pops the massive Manc songster, condemned to repeat the same rif, three chords over and over again (although some might say...). When a few seconds of Karen Carpenter's vocal chords are what he needs, the cooing Christian chanteuse magically appears. In time and in quadruplicate.
Likewise Miles Davis, Marilyn Monroe, The Sex Pistols, Brian Eno, classical bods, drips, pistons, Chinese orchestras and an anonymous bass playing thumb (Thumb n'bass! Ha ha... oh forget it), all playing along with the 'proper' band. Apparently, our Mark lovingly /obsessively sat through over 500 hours of video to find these chosen fragments. It's all clearly close to the self indulgent tosspot's heart, but was it all really worth Mark's time?
The short answer's yes. Aside from the sad trainspotting challenge, the larger-thanlife, timetrapped actions of these assorted superstars make for compulsive, mesmerising viewing, enhancing the music by revealing exactly which sample fits where. If some of Van Hoen's songs don't quite have enough bite (there's nothing quite whistle-worthy), vocalists Zoe Niblet and Craig Bethell don't let it show, turning in near perfect smooth, emotive performances. In fact, their biggest difficulty is being upstaged by their big screen colleagues rather inevitable considering that at one point these included The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. Twice.
Any copyright worriers should be shot. Once again club Culture has provided tile space and open-mindedness (yes, it does still exist) for someone to try out something truly daring and different, not to mention exciting and entertaining. Hell, it's most probably 'art'. Phone up Damien Hirst! Give these guys a lottery grant! We need more adventmes like this. Tonight, Locust Well and truly pulled it off.
Time out Aug 97
Despite proudly subtitling this gig 'piss-up in a brewery' because it's situated in the old Trumans' Brewery, Locust (AKA Mark Van Hoen) is no tthe same old pub-rock bollocks. Instead, this evening is one of those we describe as an Audio-visual extravaganza' and then spend the rest of the preview attempting to sell it to you with mere words.
The thing is, Mark Van Hoen (and chums) are litterally performing his work (cut-and-paste soundscapes that magpie from all areas, genres and rhythms of music) in an 'audio-visual' translation. That is to say, when he samples Sheila Chandra's mouth music, you see a clip of her on the big screen, repeated over and over again, and then, when joni Mitchel, some drums or another noodling noise is layered on top, their images appear alongside hers. There, I've made it all sound very silly, haven't I? The result is pretty impressive, and equally quite mesmeric. And, if some of the sampled artists aren't too happy about it, this could all be a one-off live experience in London. That'd be a shame, as what Van Hoen does is a lovingly constructed celebration of the big qide world of music, and, while you wonder what kind of anorak would spend 500 hours of thier time trawling through this footage, it does prove that even the trainspotters know how to have a good time, sometimes.
Laura Lee Davies
Time Out Aug 98
Locust's fifth album isn't out for a couple weeks yet, so tonight's gig, presumably drawing heavily on the forthcoming 'Morning Light', will be a test of whether Mark Van
Hoen's electro-acoustic combo really have come up with a work that's both as accessible and magical as two listens to an advance copy might suggest.
From opener (and forthcoming single) 'All Your Own Way' to a slinky 'The Girl With TheFairytale Dream', the 13 tracks may occasionally hint at Mono or Saint Etienne, but as
a package 'Morning Light' is wholly unique, stamping its own agenda with the politeheavy-handedness that only great albums can justify.
Word on the street (well, on their PR's street, at any rate) has it that tonight's will be the last ever performance of Locust's legendary audio-visual multimedia showpiece, a spectacle that has variously been described as' confusing', 'amazing, and '25 minutes of total headfuck'. Migraine-sufferers, rest assured: a 'proper' set will follow.
Incidentally, don't forget to turn up a little early in order to catch this evening's support slot, filled by 4AD's sumptuous sophistipopsters Mojave 3, who've collaborated on
Locust's album and had their own work - including mesmerising new single 'Some Kind Of Angel' - co-produced by Van Hoen.
Whoever said incestuousness was a bad thing could only have been a total and utter goon.