Mark Van Hoen – Nightvision

21000 Digipak 6P 1CD-outlines

Every once in a while, a great album by a favorite artist slips right by me. Nightvision is a perfect example. Mark Van Hoen released the album in November of 2015, and I stumbled upon it only this week. Van Hoen’s work has appeared on my best of lists and his former band, Seefeel, created some of my favorite music of all time. This was a huge oversight, as it turns out.

After just a few listens, I really wish I’d heard the album a few months ago. I have no doubt that it would have appeared somewhere on my best of 2015 list. Nightvision is frankly incredible.

This sounds like a massive refinement of Van Hoen’s prior solo work. The album feels as approachable and eager to please as his debut, Where Is The Truth, yet painted in colors even more abstract than his dark followup, The Revenant Diary.

For someone obsessed with kosmiche music from the likes of Tangerine Dream and Cluster, the compact but densely layered productions here are like the second coming of the 1970s. Of course, many artists today play in the murky waters between modern electronic music and the analog synthesizer drift of the golden age, some extremely successfully – Steve Hauschildt made one of the best albums of the past year in a somewhat similar headspace. The biggest difference here is that Van Hoen’s tones are almost completely displaced from our timeline, haunted by the memories of knotty krautrock like Amon Düül II and weirdo electronic pioneers Autechre. In other words, there’s something off kilter, otherworldly, and twice removed about his take on cosmic synth music.

The debt to Tangerine Dream is made explicit by a pair of songs, part one and two of Froese Requiem, named after the legendary band’s founding member, who passed away one year ago. Edgar Froese might have brought Tangerine Dream to 80s movie soundtrack acclaim, but Van Hoen clearly hasn’t forgotten the much darker, starker, and unnerving music he made his name with.

As the album moves on, fractured vocal samples flit through the mix, looping and disappearing unpredictably. Skittering drum patterns right out of the deepest Brainfeeder cuts emerge through the haze. It’s a sneak attack, snowballing complexity into the sleek unified torrent of synthesizers. There’s so much more to this music than a nostalgia trip. Van Hoen mines his influences from the past and present to create a mixture I have yet to truly nail down. I can feel right now that I’ll be examining this set for weeks going forward.

After an early stint in post-rock pioneer band Seefeel, helping craft some of the most groundbreaking music of the 90s, Van Hoen went solo with the industrial-tinged Locust project before coming back half a decade ago with a renewed energy and experimental ambitions. He’s released music for legendary labels like Touch and Editions Mego, and now Saint Marie Records, previously unknown to me. If they’re putting out music of this caliber with any regularity, I’ll have to keep updated.

Looking back through this blog, I realized with a laugh that I’d written about Mark Van Hoen’s Where Is The Truth exactly 5 years ago, in a post about albums I missed from the year before. History repeats itself, right out in the open.

Because the entire album has been generously shared streaming, you can lose yourself in its cosmic journey right here, right now:

The album is out on CD and vinyl as well. You can do like I did and grab the white vinyl pressing right from the Saint Marie Records page.

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