Stream: Children of the Stones, The Stars and The Silence

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Digital darklands and analogue shadowlands.

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Sjimon Gompers | March 18, 2014

Children of the Stones.

Children of the Stones' Mark Van Hoen. (courtesy of the artist)

We introduced you to Mark Van Hoen's project Children of the Stones with the recent Extended Play EP, and today we present an advance stream of the upcoming album, The Stars and the Silence. Slated for release March 25 from Saint Marie Records, you are invited to enter the orchard of shadowlands from the artist who has contributed greatly with work in Locust, Scala, Seefeel, Black Hearted Brother, and more, with the help of Martin Maeers and Neil Halstead.

Like the flicker of an old radio tuner, “Love's Last Loss” turns the emotional dial, before, “Out Of Reach” connects the signals quicker than the time it takes to reach out and touched a loved one. Title track, “The Stars and The Silence” echoes the pockets and portals from space as they can only be translated and understood here on earth. The ambiance rises like low-ground flying fog on, “Ever Within”, as the song takes you through the hollowed tunnels and underground hallways and secret passages. Keeping the electronic chemistry rolling, “Roll Complete” continues the slow brewed rotations and turns, while “Tethered” twists up the electronic events around the album's heart like a dog tied and wound by a leash to a metal utility pole.

Coming in for a landing on the musical tarmac is, “Just Like Coming Down”, opening up the doors to the experimental and entrancing wonder of, “Every Word You Say”. Throughout The Stars & The Silence, Mark reconfigures his approaches to convention while expanding his sound's range of possibilities. After “Every Word”, “Toward the Umbra” is almost a straight forward dark pop track with the call to, “step in, step out.” Like the opening sentimental weight of “Love's Last Loss”, the cycle winds down with the sparse analogue and digital speckled long sigh. Upon the album's conclusion, repeat listens with noise cancellation headphones are recommended to better experience the darkland paths traveled by Children of the Stones.

Mark joins us again to talk working with Martin Maeers, Neil Halstead, and walks us through The Stars and the Silence, track for track, measure for measure.

From the Extended Play EP to The Stars and the Silence album, what have you discovered about creating music to reverberate between the cosmos and the earth that we inhabit?

The increasing disposability and fast turnover of music (because of the internet) has made me realise more than ever that we are only around for such a short time, and that I need to be less precious about my musical output and work as fast as possible. It's now a race to release as much music as possible before the world ends or I do! As someone once said “You're really only very small and life flows on within you and without you.”

If you are so inclined, could you guide us through the LP with a few words and thoughts on recording the album's following songs?

Love's Last Loss

This captures sounds of electronic music really ever since it was invented in the early 20th century. There are elements from many decades, from the
Ondes Martenot (1920's) through to instruments from the 60's and beyond. Radio bursts from 70's transmissions add to the feeling of fragmented memories suggested by the narrative of the lyrics from Martin. Angus did some great treatments on the instrumentation, augmenting the dislocation of the soundgroups. This track started as a coda to an unreleased song, recorded a few years back. I'm very pleased with the end result, it evokes many memories in a disjointed story of love and loss.

Out Of Reach

Another merging of many times and places, recorded originally in 2006 as part of the sessions which mainly ended up on 2010 album 'Where Is The Truth'. This features old radio 60's transmissions… guitar from Neil Halstead, along with piano by Al Forrester recorded at Neil's studio in Cornwall, England in 2007. The rythms and extra electronics were added in 2013 by myself and Angus, as were the vocals from Martin.

The Stars & The Silence

Probably the most accessible song on the album, this was recorded in 2013…featuring live Rhodes piano later treated and edited by Angus, and subsequent parts added after Martin's vocal. The song is about paying a price through personal sacrifice.

Ever Within

Similar to 'Out Of Reach', this features Neil & Al….and was also recored in fits & bursts since 2006, starting life on a non-concert pitch piano that I owned in Brighton, UK in 2006. Slightly different in that it has live drums from studio owner Paul Warrener, recorded in Leicester UK in the mid 2000's. A great studio with an old fashioned 'real' vibe…not sure if it still exits or not.

Roll Complete

This is a cover version of a track I wrote with Vinny Miller, the original version is on his album 'On The Block' released on 4AD in the early 2000's. The song was written probably in 1998 in London. I shared a house with Vinny in Dalston back then… interesting times. Vinny is sadly the most underated artist I have ever known about…he is I belive recording new material, which I hope will enable people to discover this amazing talent.

Tethered

This started life as a Locust track, and is co-written with Louis Sherman…lots of live played analog synthesizers and some fine digital treatments, edits and harmony changes from Angus Finlayson, now resident in Amsterdam.

Just Like Coming Down

This song was written & recorded entirely by myself in 2012, and originally sang by me, but I'm glad to release this version with somewhat superior vocals from my old friend Martin!

Every World You Say

A short track, and the song on the album I was least involved in…I love what Angus has done with the treatments, and Martin's vocal is great too…I like the open-ended lyric, leaves an unaswered question.

Toward The Umbra

This started as a jam on some drums in a kids playground…there were some plastic toms in Cooper Park, Brooklyn..I recorded it on the iPhone while my children were playing. I added some rhodes piano and early Cocteau Twins inspired guitars..which seemed appropriate, because the group was the inspiration for the band Martin and I formed along with Mark Clifford in the early 80's.

Save For Me

This is another recording from many sources and times. Started on an old piano in Brighton in 2006, Rachel Davies from Esben & The Witch (also Brighton based) added some wonderfully haunting vocals. Later, Martin turned it into a song, and Angus added some more great treatments and edits. Finally, I mixed the song and made futher edits. A kind of bookend counterpart to the first track on the album, another lament for memories long forgotten.

What has been on your spring listening playlists, stereos, etc?

Despite continually searching for new music, I'm afraid that so far this year I don't have anything of note to report..it's kind of depressing. It seems like everything that's being touted as great by writers at the moment….er….isn't ! But I am listening to plenty of old music, the usual mixture of early electronic music and 70's 'Krautrock'.

Summer prospects and previews?

A new Locust album is almost complete, the next Black Hearted Brother is underway, and my own solo record is also in process…no preview yet, but there should be something from Locust within a few weeks!

Children of the Stones' album Stars & the Silence will be available March 25 from Saint Marie Records.

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