Locust: You’ll Be Safe Forever (Editions Mego)
When Mark Van Hoen was asked to perform on KFMU, he began rehearsing and collaborating with Louis Sherman — after deciding that the results sounded suspiciously like his 90s project Locust, Van Hoen revived the moniker and collected some of those sessions along with some new stuff for the first proper Locust album since 2001’s Wrong. You’ll Be Safe Forever is not so far off from the haunted samples of his previous outing under his own name, The Revenant Diary, but it also falls in line with the chunky beats of Locust’s Truth Is Born of Arguments album from 1995. Anyone expecting the more chanteusy lyrical side of Wrong or Morning Light may be slightly disappointed, but this is very much Van Hoen in his element otherwise. Hazy interludes break up the more rhythmic tracks, and it’s the contrast between these more ambient interludes and strong beat-laden pieces that defines the album. Like The Revenant Diary, there’s something somewhat dated in Van Hoen’s approach, using a lot of old-sounding loops, repetitive structures that sound perhaps hardware sampler-based — but Van Hoen’s knack for infectious tracks is still strong, and it’s evidenced fully on a track like “Strobes,” whose weird vocal refrain is not so far off from The Revenant Diary’s “Don’t Look Back” (one of my favorites on each release respectively). Opening track “Fall For Me” is also gorgeous, setting the tone for the proceedings really well with its undulating pads and manipulated vocal pieces. There’s a balance between grooves and discord here that works to Van Hoen’s favor, like the weird gallop of “Just Want You” pitted against dissonant layers of sequencing and samples or the Burial-esque breaks of “Oh Yeah” that provide a grounding for its airy, nebulous chords. But this is not to discount the ambient element of the album so casually; those shorter, abstract sketches are key to the album’s flow and sense of wholeness. “The Worn Gift” finds Van Hoen flexing the same tension found on his beaty tracks but with a weightless ease. The final stretch of tracks somewhat brings those two contrasting elements together with a more sedate downtempo groove accompanying pastoral mixes of sound. It’s great to have the project revived, even if Locust continues to shift shapes over time. That Van Hoen has managed to tap into something that sounds at once nostalgic and new is a testament to his skills as a producer as well as his ingenuity as a creator.