Mark Van Hoen revived the Locust name after a gig a few years ago and released the tentative-sounding You’ll Be Safe Forever in 2013. I can’t be sure whether it was the clearing of some creative cobwebs or a newfound sense of inspiration, but Van Hoen has really turned a corner this time around. Not only did Locust’s After the Rain arrive so quickly after You’ll Be Safe Forever, it’s a huge improvement over its predecessor as well. Together with his partner Louis Sherman, Van Hoen has used the Locust name to once again give electronic music the multi-dimensional shading for which the genre ought to be known.
While it’s not entirely clear if After the Rain is a concept album, the twelve pieces do seem to have a common thread – not one that tells you a story but one that shows you the beginning, middle, and end of a stroll through a garden. Van Hoen has explicitly stated that a great deal of After the Rain is painted from the ‘70s European electronic music palate. So with a nod to the past likely paired with a can-do attitude, Van Hoen and Sherman recorded most of After the Rain live with no sequencing. The two allowed themselves to play off one another with more traditional instruments gliding alongside the modern ones. Celeste Griffin and Candace Miller contribute wordless vocals and Julie Manescau provides an impressionistic use of the spoken word. Locust gently pulls the sound along from beginning to end as if it doesn’t want to unfold any other way.
After the Rain is also very low-key. Just its name alone suggests that calm moment in the water cycle when everything is just waiting to dry before going back to normal. Van Hoen and Sherman don’t thrust any up-tempo moments upon the listener until the single “I’ll Be There” appears at track seven. And even then, this rainbow-colored slice of Krautrock/synth-pop glides at something just a hair north of andante. With no lyrics and the most minimal of melodies, “I’ll Be There” manages to be pretty catchy in its own right. On After the Rain, it somehow bypasses being the collection’s sore thumb and ends up being the blossoming bud in the center of it all. The six tracks leading up to it are surprisingly just as memorable, considering how introverted they are. “To Lonely Shores” is a slice of synth pad heaven and “Downlands” pits what I assume is a sampled saw against slowly melting keys. And “Shadows Cast by Planes” is about as harmonically lofty as its title implies.
After the Rain‘s continues to peel the sound away slowly through a lightly altered variety of keyboard sounds. With titles like “Sorrow Stays” and “Sky Black Horses”, Mark Van Hoen and Louis Sherman make sure that their resurrected sense of melody comes equipped with the appropriate mood. The press release accompanying the album says that it “sees Locust stepping away from the abstracted forms of previous works”. Actually, on After the Rain, it feels like they were able to incorporate everything together. Melody, abstraction, electronics, improvisation, mood all came together in a compelling coexistence. You’ll Be Safe Forever sounded like so many other albums out there, but After the Rain is, for now, in a class all its own.
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