Mark Van Hoen
Playing With Time (1999)




All titles written and produced by Mark Van Hoen at Pravda.
All titles published by Chrysalis Music Ltd.
Source vocals on 'Real Love' by Holli Ashton.
Source vocals on 'Love Is All' by Lisa Millet.
All other sounds created or found by Mark Van Hoen.
All DSP and editing my Mark Van Hoen on Protools.
LP compiled by Jon Wozencroft and Mark Van Hoen.
Mastered by Dennis Blackham at Country Masters.
Design and photography by Jon Wozencroft.

The track 'You And Me Inside' was used in a short film by Jeff Stark in 1999. The movie ran in theatres in the UK, and featured Ewan McGregor as 'The Stranger'




Melody Maker
The man behind Locust has temporarily left the swarm to make something more ambiguous, and playing with time is exactly what he does -stretching, layering, repeating and looping instrumental phrases in a mesh of loveliness which is three parts Seefeel, one part early Orbital. 4/5   
Dazed And Confused
Strangulated vocal meets the millennium bug in the chill out room of the mind's eye. Exquisite production ideas that are so expertly executed - at times it's hard to know whether you are listening or dreaming. At the end of a topsy-turvy seven day head massacre, "Real Love" offers legitimate tranquillity.  
Future Music
Mark Van Hoen , one half of commercial outfit Locust, Mark Van Hoen is also a serious composer as his latest solo effort - showcasing a series of tracks based around the notion of time - attests, Not that Playing With Time resides in crapfest concept album territory rattler that the idea of contrasting tempos and loops has been used as the basis for this wildly divergent set.
Sometimes the theme is used in an obvious way, with clockwork rhythms underpinning a screwed Lip choir sound on Closer Than We All Thought, for Instance. At other times it's evident In the heavy reverb, transforming the lullaby vocals of Real Love into something far more imposing. And then at other times, Van Hoen simply mucks about with the very structure of his tracks, stopping and starting samples and loops to emphasis the digital nature of It all.
it's all tremendously clever and interesting, though occasionally you need to be ready to accept the ambient beauty without suddenly wondering whether the CD is jumping. Mark Ramshore  
HIFI World
One half of Pop band Locust, Mark Van Hoen is actually also a critically acclaimed composer with five albums, numerous stage appearances and many visual exhibitions under his belt. Despite the wide range of previous releases this album definitely belongs on the Dance and Ambient page due to its innovative synthesised stand point.The title of the album best describes the contents: Mark plays with the concept of time in every single track. Musically, each tune bears an off-beat element through the way an instrument is mixed or in the way the vocals are layered on top. It's something of an experiment based on the idea that recorded music lives in non-real time and that recorded music cannot be reproduced live. Consequently tracks appear to skip in places, samples of old works are reintroduced and tempos just wander all over the place.
Playing With Time also offers variations on an eclectic musical basis, borrowing from techno, peaceful far-Eastern music and trashy industrial sounds which culminate in an open, contemplative space in the final track 'Love Is All'. The whole thing sounds extremely arty-farty but the sound scape is so deep and diverse that it's accessible to anybody into laidback beats and soothing, beautiful noise.Sara Davis  
Ministry "Ambient Album of the Month"
Dark Side of the Moon with bleeps; PlayIng With Time is a concept album. Prog ambient, if you will. Clocks chime and cogs whirr while Dutchman Mark Van Hoen plays with time signatures and his listeners' heads. Lie back and float along with First Steps' spiralling keyboards, tap your foot gently to the smokily cool organ hook on Once when I Was Fourteen and wig out, ever so slightly, to the metal machine trippiniess of Gifts And Prizes. Van Hoen's expansive electronica manages to create a sense of space, and you guessed it, time, that makes for a perfect slice of twilight chill. Top Tracks: First Steps, Gifts And Prizes, Once When I Was Fourteen  
Fifth and best album of elegant electronica from the ex-Seefeel man.
From the breathy and mysterious opener Real Love to the marathon finale Love Is All, Playing With Time displays an impressive range of instrumentation and clever application of technology. Its 10 tracks draw on techno, trance and ambient influences without ever making you reach for the fast-forward button. There's even an extended Bobby Konders-style funky organ workout on Once When I Was Fourteen to stop the whole caboodle getting too airy and rootless. OK, Van Hoen occasionally gets a bit literal with the temporal allusions - music-box noises on Surrounder, clockwork cogs grinding away on Gifts And Prizes - but the results are so damn beautiful they take your breath away. Nine pieces of exquisitely crafted electronica set the scene and then Love Is All glides gracefully by and keeps the old-school ambient heads happy for 36 minutes. There's life in the old circuitry yet. Rob Chapman  
Music, like so many other of life's pleasures, depends to a large extent on the context in which it is consumed. Ed Rush and breakfast, for example, do not mix, Neither do this LP and dancefloors, I would wager. Slap this on in the middle of a quiet reflective moment however, and hey presto - it becomes an altogether more intriguing beast. The title holds the key to the artists' intentions to fuck around with time and create feelings that could not have been Invented in 'real time', ie without the aid of a tape recorder (or its more sophisticated technological brethren). Thus, what you get is a melange of jerky, cut-up sounds, stretched out ambience and filtration and even (in one instance) a take on seriality albeit one that owes more to Far-Eastern music than to Steve Reich et al. Given the penchant of many 'experimental' musicians for overwrought cleverness, what ultimately works for this isits listenability - just pick the right moment.
Sunday Telegraph
The one record I can unreservedly recommend this week comes from Mark Van Hoen who, despite the name and the fact that he's signed to a Belgian label, is British. His latest album Is a bit more esoteric than his earlier material (recorded under the Locust): it's very sparse, very electronic and, given that it's all about our shifting concept of time, perhaps even a bit pseudy. But trust me, though it might initially sound like just a selection of disparate booming, feedback noilses, chiming clock
sounds and breathy vocals,It's a massive grower. If you're looking for the perfect, spacey chill-out album after a night's clubbing this Is definitely the one.James Delingpole  
The Sunday Times
Soothing and disorienting at the sarne time, Playing With Time is the latest ambient exploration from Mark Van Hoen, a former Seefeel producer who also plies his trade in a dancier form as Locust. The title says it all, really. Van Hoen uses echoes, delays, samples and shifting tempos to disrupt the usual flow of time through a series of tracks that range from eastern-inspired serial music to dark, eerie. drones. A couple of the pieces are let down by rhythm tracks that have an annoying twitteriness about them - odd from a musician capable of creating the fascinating dysfunctional hi-hat patterns of Once When I Was Fourteen or the machines - gonewrong pulse of Surrounder. But, for the most part, the alburn is dominated by Van Hoen's brooding
synth noises, lush string sounds and manipulated vocals, which meld into a sound that at its best has a positively spiritual quality about it.

At the cutting edge; Mark Van Hoen


Perhaps best known as the man behind sonic experimentalists Locust, and backed by a brace of acclaimed releases on the seminal R&S label, Mark Van Hoen has been exploring a spectrum of emotive electronic flavours for more than a decade; fusing and abusing new and old
techniques and technology to produce musicthat's as baffling as it is beautiful.

"I'd really like to write an album that sold millions but was actually very weird. it's adifficult thing to pull off, but something I'l lalways be working towards." Ensconced in his custom-built East London studio, Mark Van Hoen does his best to explain his musical raison d'etre. "In a way, I suppose I've always been< inspired by successful records that contain an element of the avant-garde - Strawberry Fields Forever, Laurie Anderson's Oh Superman, Japan's
Ghosts, music that you like and your mum likes as well, but for entirely different reasons."

Van Hoen's new solo album, Playing With Time, is a masterpiece of subtlety and extremes that takes it's inspiration from Eno, Stockhausen and Aphex Twin, among others. Conforming to the criteria of his openinggambit, it's a body of work that merges vintage
production concepts with obsessive attention to detail, from a man who excels at bringing abstract sounds into sharp focus with the help of some heavyweight hardware and software. Playing With Time stands out as a unique contemporary recording. Its rich, organic textures and absorbing atmospherics are the fruits of Van Hoen's tech-suss fused with his fondness for a bygone age of music production, as he reveals. "I'm really into 60s recordings. For me the classic period was 1965 to 1975 - The White Album, Sly and The Family Stone, Stevie Wonder- that's when all the great records were made. It was a time when technology was advancing from the pre-60s rudimentary standard, but nothing was digitised, and even transistors weren't that common in the recording process.
"That's one thing that really inspired me when I first heard the Portishead album," he continues. "I loved the way they'd captured that sound. It inspired me to try to achieve that kind of production intentionally. I'd sort of done it in the 80s because I didn't really know much about recording and I had shit equipment, but years later, listening back to music I made then, I discovered some amazing stuff that had come about by accident."

Indeed, some of these sounds were sampled and re-used on Playing With Time, although not without some advanced processing.
"I actually released an album about four years ago that was made up of whole tracks from the 80s, so I'd pretty much used up all the complete pieces," Mark explains. "But I went back to 4-track tapes from my old reel-toreel and found a store of material for the new album. There were loads of really nice rhythm iocips and strange noises that I can't even magine how I arrived at now, which I put into ProTools [high-end computer music system], edited, and built new tracks around."

Real Love, the stunning opener from 'Playing With Time' typifies the complexity of Van Hoen's aproach to song creation, combining additional and experimental practices. "Real Love' was written around the vocal part, 11 Lines . 'I wrote some words, thought of a modal key that I wanted it to be in and got the vocalist to sing various combinations of phrases, usingc notes in the modal scale. I knew that I wanted to do a lot of editing and generate new sourlds by effecting the voice, so I just wanted a source pool of notes and sounds to play . Then. with the electronic manipulation, it , created a kind of other-worldly character.
And make no mistake, Van Hoen puts in the hours with his effects and editing software to attain results that often sound effortlessly natural.
"In places, there'll be one word that reverbs for maybe 15 seconds, then I'll add a resonant filter or a cone filter at a certain note in the scale - in the key of the song so it generates a new chord. It's all quite thought out, he understates. "But I don't think that that necessarily validates a track - I've always wary of music that's< over- intellectual. It's not the process that's important, it's the effect on the listener. They shouldn't know how it's put together, it should just work."

Although developing tracks from single sounds or loops is a composition method that Van Hoen expounds the virtues of, his later work has taken it's lead from more established starting points "For the next Locust album we're actually writing all the tracks as songs on acoustic guitar, which is quite different to anything I've done in the past." he reveals . It's also going to be more pop than anything we've done before. We want to make them exist as catchy songs first, before I start messing with them. I will make them sound extreme, but I want them to remain pop songs. It's almost like remixing, in that you've got a very traditional sounding song that you've got to pull to pieces, while retaining the melody and the catchiness."

The guitar also features in Locust's live set-up, but, typically, not in a conventional sense. If you were fortunate enough to catch Massive Attack on their recent Mezzanine tour, chances are you'll have copped an ear Locust providing the tantalising warm-up which, for an outfit unaccustomed to performing in this way, was a rare treat. Van Hoen picks up the story, "I used to do stuff live with video sampling, and last year we were invited to do a show on French TV.
I couldn't use the video because the samples weren't cleared, so I thought, right, I'm gonna to play completely live, which was something we hadn't done before.
To be honest, I'd got bit fed up with the video thing anyway, because it was so static, so I enjoyed the challenge. Sufficiently enamoured by the experience, Locust set about promoting their Morning Light album with further live dates. "Locust used to be the more experimental side of my output," Van Hoen explains, But it evolved into vocal music that was more pop, if you like, so it made sense to present in a way that people are used to."
Hence the Massive Attack tour? "That was a very interesting experience," he confirms. "We played as a fourpiece; the drummer played a Drum Kat, I was using a
Roland VG-8 guitar synth through a Line Six amp, and there was bass and vocals. We were creating a lot of live loops with the Lexicon JamMan [a basic sample and hold rack unit], and I found the freedom of being able to extend songs and improvise really liberating."

Mark Van Hoen is vigorous in his defence of the programmer as a musician, and of computer technology as a valuable creative medium, but remains a commited exponent of minimalism and experimentation in music.

"You still meet people, primarily nonmusicians, who don't believe that the idea of programming music is valid, and assume that you're not a proper musician unless you play a traditional instrument," he bemoans. "When I first got into music, I was listening to things like Stockhausen, Kraftwerk, John Cage, Can, and Eno, of course,
who's championing of nonmusicianship established him as the guru, and I've always believed in that mode of thought. It's like classically trained musicians, they're not really in touch with the true spirit of music, they've kind of stripped out all the soul by over-learning." He relates a recent incident to illustrate the point, and eloquently sums up his musical philosophy at the same time: "A very technically good musician criticised my band when we were on the Massive Attack tour. He said we couldn't really play, which I took as a compliment, because I saw what he did ...jazz wank. I've never really enjoyed that selfindulgent, too-many-notes thing; I've always thought that one good note can say more than a hundred. To me, it's far better to zoom in on small details rather than be bombarded..."


Playing with studio time is something that Mark Van Hoen strives not to do. He works to a strict regime in order to avoid failing into the trap of the never-quite finished track, as he reveals to Computer Music:

"As soon as I got a computer I realised that I could easily get bogged down with too many choices, so I've always worked in destructive mode, erasing things as I go. You have to make decisions, or you end up ironing out all the spontaneity." Mark's set-up is based around an Apple Mac running Cubase and Digidesign's Pro Tools audio recording system, a formidable combination.

"I use a PowerMac 9600. The G3 was actually out when I bought it, but this has got more PCI slots, and I'm running Pro Tools with two interfaces, which gives me 16 outputs. Pro Tools is great for things like crossfacles, and automation of effects, and you've got the graphic perspective which really helps me with things like timing effects into parts of the music.

" As a cursory glance at his bulging racks of outboard will reveal, Mark is still very much an exponent of conventional hardware, despite his enthusiasm for software effects; sometimes you just can't beat the tactile, hands-on-ness of a beefy rack unit, it seems.

"The Drawmer 1960 compressor is beautiful," he gushes."I've had it for three or four years now. One of my favourite tricks is to put a signal through it twice - a mono signal through the top and bottom channels in series. It's quite a different sound to just using hard compression on a single signal, for example. If you use a medium compression on both, it's very distinctive. Also, sometimes I'll compress on the top channel, feed the signal into the aux input, distort it a bit and then run it through the second channel."

Mark's dream studio would involve utilising the best gear from both the digital and analogue worlds though, as he describes: "I'd love to go back to analogue recording, in some ways - for that distinctive sound - but you just can't get the editorial flexibility. Some things you can do digitally are simply impossible to achieve with analogue tape. The ideal scenario for me would be to have a really good quality digital system - 24-bit, 96kHz - so you could get all the detail of the sounds, and then edit digitally and lay everything across to 2-inch 24-track, say a Studer running at 30ips with Dolby SR through a Neve desk, the whole lot really. I might get the opportunity to do something like that on the next album - laying everything ontoanalogue at the end to warm it up and smooth out the digital bits..."

"I've been using Pro Tools for about a year now, but I've heard a lot of good things about Logic Audio. At the moment, all the MIDI sequencing is done on Cubase, but I don't use the audio side of it - mainly because it has to run through the Mac port which is only stereo, and besides, Digiclesign hardware is in a different class. It's not a particularly good way of operating though, because Cubase doesn't work directly with Digiclesign hardware, so the MIDI and audio tracks are running independently, which is why I'm looking at Logic Audio. I had a little play with it on someone else's computer recently and I think the crossfacles and automation are as good as Pro Tools'.The latest version is also very close to Cubase from a user's point of view, so I don't think it'll be too difficult to get to grips with. To be honest, I wish I'd moved onto Logic ages ago, but it's a question of finding the time, although I've got to the point now where I'm losing so much time by having to flick between programs that I'm compelled to make the change."

The majority of software effects Mark uses are Pro Tools plug-ins.The quality and diversity of these plug-ins has developed to a point where they're now often as good as, if not better than, the hardware they emulate. Along with a range of Focusrite effects and Lexiverb, the Lexicon reverb emulator, Mark also swears by something called GRM Tbols:

"It's a program that was developed by an organization called IRCAM in Paris, which is like a government-funded institute for research into sound. GRM Tools is a of commercial spin-off that's come out of the research, and it's amazing. I love effects that aren't your traditional chorus, echo, reverb kind of thing, and GRM can do really quite mad stuff. It's nice to put a sound through a GRM Tools filter, which is quite rough, and then put a Marshall amp simulation after it to warm the sound up a bit, or even route it through something like the Moog or Oberheim. Pretty much all the filtering on Playing With Time was done in Pro Tools with GRM Tools, Hyperprism and a couple of other programs." Another favoured piece of software is Line Six, an amp simulation plug-in for Pro Tools modelled on classic guitar amps and speakers.

"You've got Marshall,Vox, Fender, Mesa Boogie amps, and then you can select different cabinets to run the amps through and set up parameters like microphone placement and configuration," he enthuses."And, obviously, you can put anything you like through it. It's quite nice with vocals, and pretty much any sound really."