Morning Light by Locust (Review)

An attempt to bridge the gap between Mark Van Hoen’s harsh earlier work and his most song-oriented material.

I had only heard one other Locust release before this one. That was Weathered Well, which was OK, but pretty forgettable. However, this one was touted as a mix between This Mortal Coil and Massive Attack. I don’t know if I hear This Mortal Coil’s influence, other than the lush arrangements and mixing that permeate this album, and the slew of artists that appear on here.

Locust mastermind Mark Van Hoen (who has also worked with Seefeel) is joined on this album by a variety of vocalists, including Zoe Niblett, Craig Bethell (who really reminds me of that White Town guy), and Neil Halstead (Mojave 3/​Slowdive). All in all, the vocalists do a wonderful job, adding sensual vocals to Van Hoen’s superb songwriting and arranging.

A few of the songs are fairly upbeat and almost danceable (if there was such a thing as a cool danceclub), such as ​“Your Selfish Ways.” But most of the other songs unfold at a very leisurely pace. ​“I Am The Murderer” combines trip-hoppish beats, skewed strings, and Niblett’s sensual vocals intoning ​“I’m clean of consequence. I’m niggling, shameful, and guilty. I’m tempted, I’m hungry.” Oh yeah…

One Way Or Another” is a personal favorite, with an acoustic guitar leading into a a groovy bass and brushing drumbeats. Vocalist Mel Skye follows in Niblett’s footsteps, providing a nice sensual touch to the whole piece. ​“No-one In The World” is another stand-out track, with a golden trumpet singing out behind some more gorgeous female vocals. The beats kick in and suddenly it’s the best track Lamb never wrote. A lot of this album reminds me of Lamb, but it’s better.

Being a huge fan of Slowdive and Mojave 3, I wondered what the song featuring Neil Halstead would sound like. It’s ​“On the Horizon” and is a pretty good song, though nothing like a Slowdive or Mojave 3 track. Melodies kind of collide and flow about. Little piano pieces and horn solos pop up here and there. Then it all comes together, with dark synths undermining the whole thing, adding a sinister and anxious tone to the whole piece. It almost sounds kind of Dead Can Dance-ish.

Throughout the album, little instrumental pieces pop up, like little fragments of songs. Natural sounds, odd samples, and various musical interludes fill in the voids between tracks. Some are like transition pieces, while others are actually songs in and of themselves.

I’ve heard that some people complain about Locust’s new direction. Personally, I don’t see why. This stuff is pleasant to listen to, and is great to chill out to. On Morning Light, Locust pulls off some amazing work and I personally think that it’s a welcome change. It’s full of lush trip-hop with an experimental ethic that, while not particularly spine-chilling (like Portishead’s newest masterpiece), still makes for a pretty darn good album. If you’re thinking about getting any of Mark Van Hoen’s work, this is a very good place to start. It’s much easier to get into than his work on Weathered Well and is much more rewarding.