[29 May 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
When Mark Van Hoen was last working under the name Locust, it didn’t sound or feel like this. 2001’s Wrong spent roughly half its time riding the pop train, featuring understated female vocals. The rest of the time, it was balancing these “songs” with instrumental meditations that perfectly blended avant-garde with “pure moods”. It was like Moby meets Boards of Canada with an improvement over the former but never trying to upstage the latter. Van Hoen put the name to rest until recently when he and fellow electronic musician Louis Sherman underwent rehearsals in preparation for a performance on the Jersey City/Hudson Valley station WFMU. The new sounds produced from these sessions oddly reminded Van Hoen of his old sound. Before they knew it, Van Hoen and Sherman became Locust and began hammering out You’ll Be Safe Forever. And while it may not be physically possible to neuter an insect, these guys prove that it can be done metaphorically and musically.
Locust are signed to Editions Mego but they don’t seem to fit alongside the rest of the label’s roster. What makes the label so intriguing is that their artists are always wringing things out of thin air that you’ve never heard before. You’ll Be Safe Forever, however, is stuffed full of competently executed electronic retreads, posing no threat to lovers of top-40 pop or to the pedestals of the vanguards for the avant-garde. What it does offer is 46 minutes worth of synthesizer hooks, some sampled vocals, and a bunch of tracks that roll out like place-holders—or doorstops for someone of Van Hoen’s esteem, back during his more discriminating days.
Locust will dip the ladel a little deeper from time to time. The interludal numbers like “I Hear a Quiet Voice”, “The Worn Gift” and “Remember” certainly have the potential to be weirder than they are. The Dark Side of Eno album closer “Corporal Genesis” is just about enough to make me forgive whatever shortcomings Locust are struggling with at the moment. And as I mentioned before, Van Hoen and Sherman can kick hooks all around the studio with the best of them. With the help of Jennifer Restivo and some tastefully restrained sampling, these vocal hooks anchor down the opener “Fall for Me” and the faux-industrial “Just Want You”. Little development comes in their wake and many motifs grow stale too quickly. “Strobes”, considered to be the album’s selling point thus far, stays stuck in first gear for almost the entire time. Just when you think things are going to get atonal or ambient, it fades out.
You’ll Be Safe Forever is not pop and it isn’t weird. It contains neither “songs” nor thoughtfully abstract slices of instrumental paradise. It doesn’t groove, chill, float, or rock. It is not good and and it is not bad. Most of it is just present and accounted for. When I phrase it like that, it sounds like purgatory, doesn’t it? If that’s the case, then the album title can’t be a wild coincidence.