Mark Van Hoen - Invisible Threads

CD – 7 tracks – 39:51
Limited edition of 500

Track listing:

1 Weathered
2 Dark Night Sky Paradox
3 Opposite Day
4 The Yes_No Game
5 Aethēr
6 Flight Of Fancy
7 Instable

All titles composed and recorded by Mark Van Hoen in Los Angeles 2016
Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham

In mid 2016 I did a brief tour of the west coast with Philip Jeck, Simon Scott, Daniel Mensche, Lee Bannon, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Pye Corner Audio and Marcus Fischer. The music of all these great artists and the experience of playing these shows with them all informed what would become ‘Invisible Threads’ which was primarily composed and recorded in the latter half of 2016. I had not played live at dates in such a dense cluster for many years, and the exposure to so much great music and the artists was inspiring. Other Touch artists were also an influence here - Claire M Singer, Jana Winderen and as ever Chris Watson (who has been an enduring influence from the moment I first heard Cabaret Voltaire in 1979)… along with my project ‘drøne’ with Mike Harding… the collaborative aspect of drøne brought up a few new paths in itself.

During the time I was recording the album I was editing audio and sound design for films - this too went some way to defining the structure and sound of ‘Invisible Threads’. At the time of recording several of the titles on the album, I had re-read 'The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion’, a short story by Edgar Allen Poe… and in some ways this record is a soundtrack to that.

The title ‘Invisible Threads’ refers to the intangible connection between all of the musical and personal influences that brought this record into being.

Instrumentation/sound sources

Modular synthesizer notably using modules manufactured by Make Noise, The Harvestman & Mutable Audio
Software - Ableton Live, Pro Tools and many plugins - heavily used were Max, Soundhack and Native Instruments’ Reaktor & Kontakt
Sound libraries from Spitfire Audio.
Fender Rhodes piano, Fender Jaguar guitar. Farfisa Organ, Vox continental.
Notably no analogue synthesizers were used on this album - probably the first time I’ve made a record without them since ‘Aurobindo: Involution’ in 1994
A few field recordings made on my very modest Zoom H4n recorder (mainly domestic sounds) made it onto the record
Some ‘found’ sources also are present, mainly from vinyl records and YouTube.


Toneshift (USA):

Touch releases the latest adventure by Mark Van Hoen just today (25th May 2018), its called Invisible Threads (CD/Digital). Let’s attempt an unveiling as I need to play catch-up since his last record I experienced was 2012’s amazing The Revenant Diary. Starting with the top track Weathered, the mood is strangely symphonic, light crackle and hiss over an otherwise moody, darkened mid-range synth drone. It’s pure aural theater from the start. The foreground actions are minimal while the back is bold and shape-shifting, with a random radio frequency throwing practically inaudible voices that are assimilated into the mix. Dark Night Sky Paradox continues without the tail end, and adding a slightly higher pitched tone creating a bit of an alarm. This feels like an extended overture in suspension.

This has inflections of his past work throughout, but Van Hoen has matured in his editing, and paring down any excess, keeping each track here packed with drama. The air is goosepimple inducing on Opposite Day. It’s part tropical forest meets part space exploration, with a tinge of shadow play. He’s heading into the world of independent soundtrack scoring in the foggy space created on The Yes_No Game. Strident synths, lapping waves and bare whispers become space age symphonic. This blend of unyielding artful restraint is also indicative of label head Jon Wozencroft‘s ghostly green coverart, like a found object from another galaxy.

It’s been since 2010 since I saw him play live (my Resident Advisor nod) and this is a great chance to catch up with a true sound artist. The final three tracks continue are bathed in the balance of luminous trepidation, most notable in the vast reverb of Flight of Fancy. It roars tensely, quietly into Instable which is quite a dizzying mix of a swirly synthesizer that sounds as if it’s being broadcast inside a cathedral. The conclusion is on-point, especially if you appreciate a great disappearing act. [TJ Norris]

Das Filter (Germany):

Wenn Mark Van Hoen neue Musik veröffentlicht, ist das eigentlich immer eine gute Nachricht. Doch – Überraschung! – seine letzten Alben hatte ich überhaupt nicht mitgeschnitten: Der Bandcamp-Dschungel ist an einigen Stellen einfach zu dicht gewachsen, gerade wenn es um die Aufarbeitung eines über die Jahre stetig gewachsenen Archivs geht. Mark Van Hoen war mal bei Seefeel am Start. Veröffentlichte als Locust. Und ließ die Musik vieler eher akustischen Band elektronisch schimmern. Schimmern ist genau das richtige Stichwort bei seiner neuen Platte, die er dieser Tage auf Touch vorlegt. Ruhige und in sich ruhende Miniaturen, die dabei jedoch kontinuierlich mäandern und in den unterschiedlichsten Schattierungen brodeln, einem immer wieder die Hand reichen. Ob man sie wirklich ergreifen soll, bleibt aber bis zum Schluss rästelhaft. Es ist genau diese Stimmung, die Mark Van Hoen über die Jahre erst entwickelt und dann perfektioniert hat. Seine Musik ist wie ein Blick in eine andere Welt. Besser als das Hier und Jetzt, aber nicht frei von Makel. Damit erschafft der Musiker eine Art des Hyper-Realismus, ausgebreitet und arrangiert in einem komplexen Spiegelsaal der affirmativen Irritation. Oder ganz einfach gesprochen: In diesem Ambient-Skyscraper stoppen die Aufzüge ganz besonders sanft vor der Dachterrasse ab. [Thaddeus]

Silence & Sound (France):

Moitié de drøne aux cotés de Mike Harding, Mark Van Hoen dit avoir puisé l’inspiration pour Invisible Threads, dans l’énergie créatrice des artistes avec qui il a tourné en 2016, ainsi que dans celle des artistes du label Touch.

Invisible Threads est une oeuvre étrange et envoutante, aux climats presque mystiques, avec ses orgues et ses synthés décrivant des cercles habités de field recordings naturalistes et de zones urbaines fantomatiques. On est happé dans un monde que l’on imagine du bout des oreilles, capable de se faire presque imperceptible.

Mark Van Hoen compose des ambiances sombres sans pour autant être pesantes, laissant la lumière passer au travers d’interstices minuscules, desquels s’échappent en catimini des bourdonnements frêles.

Climatique et cinématographique dans son ensemble, Invisible Threads tire presque parfois vers des ambiances expérimentales aux arrangements classiques, avec ses cordes et ses cuivres en fond, flirtant avec une certaine idée du divin et du profondément émotionnel.

Mélangeant proximité et éloignement, le travail sonore effectué sur Invisible Threads est des plus impressionnants, effleurant l’idée que l’on ne doit pas perturber les mouvements par des gestes trop brusques, mais pénétrer en sourdine dans cet amas de matière à la plasticité des plus ensorcelantes. Vital. [Roland Torres]

DLSO (Italy):

Chi ha iniziato le frequentazioni nel genere elettronico negli anni 90 si ricorderà di Mark Van Hoen grazie alle sue produzioni con il nome d´arte di Locust, in buona parte pubblicate su label Apollo/R&S. Da lì in avanti una infinità di collaborazioni – con Seefeel e Mojave 3 tra le altre – e progetti artistici di vario genere. Parallelamente si sono anche susseguiti ad intervalli più o meno regolari alcuni convincenti album pubblicati a proprio nome dei quali Invisible Threads è il convincente ultimo arrivato. Ispirato dal contatto diretto avuto con altri artisti appartenenti alla label britannica Touch, per la quale questo album arriva sul mercato, nonché dalle ulteriori collaborazioni avute nel corso degli ultimi anni, non ultima quella con Mike Harding nel progetto drøne, ed ancora dalla letteratura Edgar Allen Poe: è così che Van Hoen è arrivato alla realizzazione di questo incantevole album. C’è molta drone music dentro mentre la lunare e sospesa The Yes_No Game sottolinea la vicinanza che il londinese ha avuto con le frange più sperimentali del genere shoegaze, Opposite Day e Aether sono invece pura beatitudine ambient. Ascolto straconsigliato. [Tony D Onghia]

Aural Aggravation (web):

The Revenant Diary feels like a long time ago now: perhaps because it was. Six years is long time (although Mark Van Hoen has released two albums as The Locust in between). And yet, it continues to haunt me in some way. Returning with Invisible Threads, Mark Van Hoen continues to explore ominous, shadowy territories.

This is a dark, immersive work. I’d had a tough – and very strange – day at work. Oftentimes, when weary, stressed, dazed, I will select an instrumental work as my review project for the evening, as I find I can simultaneously write and relax, allowing the sound to wash over me. It transpires that this may have been precisely the album – or not, depending on perspective – for the occasion. I say, staring blankly. Not really listening, not really engaged, and certainly not typing. Not thinking, and not doing anything else. I don’t know exactly how long I remained like this, to all intents and purposes, immobile, in a sort of fugue state.

On returning, and attempting to remain focused, I find Van Hoen’s dark, churning sonic nebulae every bit as arresting and distracting.

The album’s inspiration stems from multiple sources, not least of all Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion which he re-read while on tour. The album is in some respect designed as a soundtrack to this, but equally, the Invisible Threads refers to the intangible connection between all of the musical and personal influences that brought the record into being.

In truth, the context and background have only limited effect on the reception. The reception is pure: a direct engagement between sonic output and listener.

Low, humming, hovering tones undulate across the album’s seven subtle compositions. Creeping, interweaving, fragmentations of light dance across these cold, bleak expanses which often bleed together. Even the silence between seems to provide an integral part of the listening experience and contributes to the shape of the overall arc of the album.

It’s distinctly background but in a way that fulfils that criteria of ambience that affects and colours the mood rather than being sonic wallpaper, disappearing into the background unnoticed. Repeated listens to Invisible Threads have not lifted my mood: instead, I feel claustrophobic, tense, weighted by an indefinable oppression. I give up: my critical vocabulary is as exhausted as my mental state when faced with this album at this time. I take a shower. Reflect. Accept that perhaps this work is so immersive that I am, temporarily, drowned.

Norman Records (UK):

After an enlightening and enriching tour with a number of Touch luminaries, Mark Van Hoen channeled his inspiration into the pieces that would become Invisible Threads, which have been layered up out of a mass of modular synthesis, sound samples from records, domestic life and YouTube, various instruments, and computer processing. The resulting seven tracks create an extremely immersive soundworld all of its own, despite its many crucial roots. CD on Touch.

and a staff reviewer wrote:

Former Seefeel member and sometime Locust -- as well as having tucked numerous productions in his own name under his belt -- Mark Van Hoen continues his long line of detailed, often intense ambient electronic albums with Invisible Threads. In the twenty-plus years he’s been making music, Van Hoen -- stellar himself, of course -- has kept some equally illustrious company; of late, on a string of live dates stretching back to 2016 he shared a stage with Philip Jeck, Simon Scott, Kara-Lis Coverdale and Pye Corner Audio.

Those experiences seem to have played a part in his continuing evolution; elements of sound design and techno influences have filtered in so that individual parts are increasingly granular and would probably bear inspection under a microscope, should we have the time. I couldn’t possibly do this album justice by summarising it as ‘pretty drone with dark ambient undercurrents’. In other words, there’s a lot going on and there are many depths beneath the surface. You can probably ignore the ‘Danger’ and ‘Hidden Currents’ warning signs, though. It’s a perfectly safe and enjoyable swim; also, Mark is a trained lifeguard, which helps.

Waves of sound -- in both the literal and metaphorical senses -- wash over the listener to create a feel of ebb and flow; it’s an immersive as well as fluid listen. The track ‘The Yes_No Game’ is a good example of this, as a woman’s voice, previously obscured, periodically emerges as the swells subside; it’s a call, an invitation to plunge into the waters. I could happily listen to this track alone on repeat for hours… ‘Opposite Day’ starts gently with some pleasing dissonances, sub-aquatic rumbles of bass and some delicate strums and harmonious chimes. It’s all very pleasant but don’t expect to be lulled into slumber; there be darkness here. Sweet, reassuring darkness.

VITAL (Netherlands):

Also on Touch is the latest CD by former Seefeel member Mark van Hoen. As far as I know he's been on Touch for some time now, including his drøne duo with label boss Mike Harding (which is not something I heard). Two years ago Van Hoen toured the west coast of America with a bunch of Touch and related artists and along with influences of Claire M Singer, Jana Winderen and Chris Watson, Van Hoen set himself to compose the pieces on 'Invisible Threads'. Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Conversation Of Eiros And Charmion’ inspired the title of the pieces, and so he says "this record is a soundtrack to that". Van Hoen uses a variety of tools, modular synthesizers, software, piano, guitar, organs and bit of field recordings and some found sounds from Youtube and vinyl, and no analogue synthesizers. Unlike the Strafe F.R. disc I have just been overwhelmed with, Van Hoen has not a lot of interest in playing out many variations or approaches. In these seven pieces (in total forty-one minutes) they more is very quiet, highly atmospheric and perhaps the perfect comedown record after the massive ear cleansing of Strafe F.R. It is not to say that the music from Van Hoen is necessarily 'easy going'; his ambient approach is that of uneasy unrest. There is always a rough edge to be spotted in these pieces, which is something I like very much. It is perhaps something not entirely new but it works wonderfully. Van Hoen is someone who knows what he's doing when it comes to ambient music. It is all-spacious, surely, but there is some visible rust on this spaceship. Maybe the same kind of beautiful spookiness one finds in the work of Poe, I was thinking. When playing Strafe F.R. I had the urge to play the entire output of the group again, straight away, and with Van Hoen I wanted to stick it on repeat, find that Poe story and read that again. And if the story were too short, I'd probably carry on with a few others of his. Unfortunately there is only so much one can do in a single day. Sad but true, but surely one evening soon I will find the time to just do that. [FdW]

Ondarock (Italy):

Per Mark Van Hoen il graduale ritorno a pieno regime sulla scena sperimentale non è stato la rivendicazione di un posto riservato, quanto piuttosto la risposta a una necessità di fare tabula rasa e ripensare radicalmente le modalità espressive già adottate con profitto a cavallo tra i due secoli.
In seguito alla riedizione in doppio Lp di “The Last Flowers From The Darkness” (Touch, 1997), a ridosso del suo ventennale, il sound artist londinese ha lavorato a ben tre dischi in tre anni con Mike Harding, co-curatore di Touch, per il progetto-laboratorio Drøne (“Reversing Into The Future”, “A Perfect Blind”, “Mappa Mundi”).
A quest’ultimo e a molti altri sodali si ispirano e sono dedicate le composizioni confluite in “Invisible Threads”, titolo riferito propriamente ai sottili legami e alla comunanza di visioni artistiche che si instaurano tra autori di simile sensibilità ed estrazione culturale.

Composto e registrato nella seconda metà del 2016, l’album del ritorno su Touch prende notevolmente le distanze dalle tematiche (post)apocalittiche degli umbratili concept a nome Drøne, inserendosi piuttosto in quel filone ambient che negli ultimi anni ha visto un notevole ampliamento dei suoi accoliti, facenti capo a label indipendenti più o meno storicizzate quali Room40, 12k, Dragon’s Eye e Cyclic Law.
Van Hoen cita esplicitamente influenze vecchie e nuove, su tutti Chris Watson e Philip Jeck – le brumose stratificazioni sonore di quest’ultimo sembrano suggerire il mood di diversi momenti – ma anche due più recenti conferme al femminile, Jana Winderen e Claire M Singer, le cui affascinanti intersezioni con la scrittura neoclassica e il field recording portano avanti onorevolmente l’inestimabile eredità Touch.

Tenendo fede alla sua formazione da producer, Van Hoen gioca a carte scoperte elencando anche la strumentazione, i software e i materiali sonori cui ha attinto: una varietà di elementi dosati con sapienza e misura tali per cui nessun brano somiglia ai precedenti, nonostante prevalga nettamente un’atmosfera fluttuante e contemplativa (“Weathered”, “Opposite Day”), quando non di assoluta pacificazione spirituale (“Dark Night Sky Paradox”). Solo in “Flight Of Fancy” si addensano sinistre nubi in forma di bordoni vibranti, mentre laddove coesistono chitarra e tastiere pare di ritrovarsi nel limbo cosmico dei Natural Snow Buildings (“The Yes_No Game”); “Aethēr” simula la più delicata delle orchestrazioni per archi, e nel finale “Instable” le ondulazioni dell’organo rievocano di sfuggita i miraggi del “Solaris” tarkovskiano.

Lavoro in certo senso “tradizionale” ma nell’ambito di un artigianato sonoro tutt’altro che elementare, “Invisible Threads” svela un lato della poetica di Mark Van Hoen che forse mai si era manifestato in maniera così trasparente. Godiamocelo, prima che il pessimismo torni inevitabilmente ad avere la meglio. [Michele Palazzo]

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Mark Van Hoen - Invisible Threads

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