Mark Van Hoen, veteran of the electronic music scene as a visit to his web site will attest, has had an extensive career as both a solo and band (Locust) member. Now entering his 50’s, he continues to explore sound and texture to create some unsettling pieces of music. Invisible Threads is his latest solo work. Informed by a love of Edgar Allen Poe and the experiences of touring with other Touch artists (see the interview below).
[nextpage title=”Review of Invisible Threads” ]
This is a dark ride. An absorbing soundtrack to a rather hesitant night of self-examination. Cinematic in scope, claustrophobic in execution, the album opens with “Weathered” – a wide-screen wash of dark expectation set against a vast ebbing pulse of keyboards, half-heard voices and static interference. This mood is perpetuated by second track, Dark NIght Sky Paradox, a sound constantly threatening direction but perpetually on the edge of collapse. Anxious music.
“Opposite Day” reminded me slightly of TG’s “Exotica”, water and bird sounds mix with chimes to gently soothe. The Yes_No Game is suspended tones and a lone, lamenting female voice. Think Eno, with a Beth Gibbons being recorded at the far end of a very long corridor. Aether is a simple keyboard (not synth, Van Hoen is at pains to point out) that reminded me of Japan’s “Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer” , but heard through a fug of low-level sonic interference.
Again, at no point can one relax with this music. At least, I couldn’t, It’s not Ambient. It is suffused with an unyielding, unrelenting dread and demands to be faced head-on. Reckoned with, almost. Flight of Fancy is anything but. Nothing is playful and all of it unsettles. Don’t play this to chill-out to or mollify dinner guests. It will set people’s teeth on edge and may actually make people a bit angry. I love it.
This is an excellent release from Touch and despite my anxious emotional reaction to it, I’ve found myself returning to it frequently over the past few days, perhaps finding within its structure and sounds a suitable soundtrack to these dark, strange and frightening days. Bravo, Mr Van Hoen. Bravo.
[nextpage title=”Interview with Mark Van Hoen” ]
The following interview was conducted by email over the weekend of 16th and 17th June 2018. Thank you, Mark for agreeing to take a quick break from his holiday to participate in this rather simple Q & A.
In the pre-publicity material, the Edgar Allen Poe short story “Eiros And Charmion”(1839) is cited as an influence on “Invisible Threads”. What was it about the story that provoked such a dense, cinematic musical response?
It’s hard to be specific and of course that in itself is disappointing and predictable..but the feelings I had on reading this as a teenager are similar to the books of JG Ballard and the music of Gary Numan, Cabaret Voltaire and German electronic music I listened to as a teenager. These all formed my musical identity at a young age and remain with me. I believe that we are defined as young adults, and the rest of our lives are spent developing and refining our craft and skills of expression.
Another influence was the short 2016 US west coast tour you undertook with Daniel Menche and Pye Corner Audio (amidst many others). What was it about these other artists that inspired you? Their stagecraft? Sound? Approach to composition?
I would say approach to composition and ability to improvise and adapt in a live situation. The most important being kara lis coverdale and philip jeck – for different reasons. Kara lis for being youthful and female and performing such astounding music which appeared to be informed by old and male music of the last 50 years…and Jeck for his wisdom and tenacity, with a constant ability to improvise new music night after night from a basic but rich set up of tools.
You also work in films – being responsible for sound design and editing audio. How does that influence your approach to the music you make?
None essentially – the other way around. Having a clean and open slate to create music informs the sound design and sound editorial
Which film composers do you find yourself looking to for inspiration?
No one recent I would say. Only composers such as Florian Fricke, Tangerine Dream, Maurice Jarre, John Carpenter, Ennio Morricone and others from the 60’s-90’s.
What are the “Invisible Threads” that you refer to? What do they tie up?
They tie up the music on the record. I mean the personal, musical, artistic and emotional influences that somehow assemble themselves into what created this music. It’s impossible to define the structure – which is why the threads (or connections) are invisible or intangible.
Having made electronic music for over 25 years, what’s your take on the state of it these days?
There is as much good music being made as there ever has been, but finding it is more difficult because every day there is more and more being made!
What were the albums that had the greatest effect upon you personally and made you want to embark upon a career in music?
Most of the music that influenced me in a profound way I heard as a teenager. I think this is true for most artists.
Karlheinz Stockhausen, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Can, Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, David Bowie and later LFO.
Predictable and yes of course all the usual suspects. But these artists are all famous and renowned for good reason!