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Mark Van Hoen The Revenant Diary Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A sweet fifth solo set on which the Seefeel founder’s past collides with his present.

Mike Diver 2012

Seefeel founder Mark Van Hoen has long been established as a talent operating in the margins of mainstream electronic music. His material is far from confrontational in its design, and requires little previous experience of comparable fare to become comfortable with. Yet, these are emissions of a very esoteric nature, in each arrangement nuances identifiable as this man’s alone making themselves apparent within structures that resonate with genre-wide appeal. Accessible, yes, but singular too: it’s a tricky tightrope that Van Hoen walks with his fifth non-Locust solo LP (and first for Editions Mego), but one he traverses with perfect poise and no little grace.

The Revenant Diary, as its title implies, represents a collision of his past and present. Its foundations were laid when he was exploring his own back catalogue, discovering an intriguing cut recorded back in 1982. Inspired by this early piece’s simple form, the New York-based but British-born musician set about outlining his next LP – this LP – on a four-track. The results are expectedly analogue of warmth (exceptions: the 8-bit insistence of No Distance’s bleeps; the crackle-and-squelch of Unknown Host), but just as enveloping as the best today’s modulator manipulators can produce. Comparisons to the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never and the more keys/organ-centred output of Tim Hecker stand up, as ethereal vocals from Georgia Belmont and itchy beat loops lock into a whole which, before long, has the listener in a trance. Unlikely as it might seem, to the right ears (and at the right times) this is as much a dance album as it is complementary music for meditation.

Lyrics are reduced to mantras, repeated ad infinitum as Van Hoen’s arresting noise creeps about them. At times his music is bright, bucolic; Four Tet with his feet up at a Lake District retreat. At others it takes a turn for darker tones, with static and hiss slithering around the layers of Where Were You like wicked vipers intent on poisoning the beauty of Belmont’s titular vocal refrain. She’s at her most prominent on Don’t Look Back, which flirts with low-end heft but reins in its disco light leanings to settle as a consuming piece comparable to Chris Clark’s lesser-tempered creations. If said number represents this set’s ‘in’ for the most absolute of beginner, then 10-minute closer Holy Me is perhaps its most challenging piece: with vocals constantly shifting in key and pitch, disquieting in their alien-like presentation, it’s Julianna Barwick possessed by a demon in a Richard D James mask. Unsettling in extremis, it’s a perplexing climax to an otherwise most alluring collection, a cold rebuff after the sweetest of embraces.

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