Stream: Children of the Stones, Extended Play

Sjimon Gompers

Children of the Stones

Children of the Stones' Mark Van Hoen, and Martin Maeers. (courtesy of the artists)

Mark Van Hoen's credentials check the likes of groups like Black Hearted Brother, Locust, Scala, Seefeel, dating back to The Occaisional Garden. The London artist channels the learned traits from collaborators present and past from Rachel Davies of Esben & The Witch, Neil Halstead & Al Forrester, Angus Finlayson, and Martin Maeers, and more on his electro-lithofied field explorations that comprise his project, Children of the Stones Extended Play EP for Saint Marie Records.

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“The Stars and the Silence” synthesizes an orchestra of strings into a distillation of unturned stars that have fallen into the crater basins of earth. The opening number finds new re-worked routes with Elika's remix that introduces new lower fields of fidelity, and analog noise amongst the glittering alliteration of keys. The Carta remix of “The Stars and the Silence” takes the shuddering of synth strings for a dip into the digital cisterns that introduces new developments and new depths. “Your Storm” programs past and present tempests into a wavy production that transforms into what sounds like the flight of a celestial space ship. Mark's years of musical pursuits take sonic shape on “Guiding Light” that shines like the brightest beams of light that break expanses of time and space at velocities greater than the time and distance traveled by the cadence of stars. The subdued element remains the EP's most fascinating entrance into the ether pool, where subtle washes of ambient production auras intertwine with Mark's dream laden delivery. The track “Saudade” is evident of this electronic ethereal nature, as the song's Portuguese / Galician name translates the mood of melancholy and longing in ways that Rosetta Stones can not relate.

Sharing exchanges from Woodstock, NY; we bring you our conversation with Mark Van Hoen.

I'm really interested into learning how that collaborative dynamic between your convergencewith Davies of Esben & The Witch, Neil Halstead & Al Forrester, Angus Finlayson, and your old school buddy Martin Maeers of The Occasional Garden works.

It's really a editorial process, which is really only possible through the way music is made now – using computers and software such as Avid Audio's Pro Tools. The contributions to this record by all these musicians were made in different times and places. In some cases years ago, as early as 1992 in the case of the track “Suadade”, but also as recently as a few hours before the record was submitted for mastering. I love this process, I think it makes for some interesting and unique combinations, that could not have happened in a traditional recording setup. It's really inspired by the way that Holger Czukay approached his edits of Can's improvisations, and then later the way Talk Talk's albums 'Spirit Of Eden' and 'Laughing Stock' were made through an editorial process.

What are is the secret to create those sonic places, atmospheres, and times that are all over the EP, from “The Stars and The Silence”, electric tempests on “Your Storm, “Suadade”, etc?

A lifetime of experience in making electronic music. It's simply the craft that I have learned. Creating a sonic place (I like the term you use!) is the same for me as someone who learned to play the guitar or the piano. The idea of the studio as an instrument is now quite an old one. For me it was instigated by King Tubby with his dub reggae experiments, and then probably expressed and clarified as an idea by Eno in the mid 70's. Now it is almost the norm. Everyone makes music with Garage Band etc. But it's the way you do it that sets artists apart. In the just the same way as one electric guitarist is very different from another.

What have you discovered about your own talents from The Occasional Garden, your solo work, the groups Scala, Locust to your work with Halstead on Black Hearted Brother?

I think the key lesson that I have learned from all the projects and others is knowing how much control to take. Sometimes it's almost none, sometimes close to total, although absolute control is only ever on records I release as Mark Van Hoen. That can also vary on a track by track basis within a project. It's about knowing the boundaries that are there with whomever I am working with. Having made so many records, I now am comfortable to have any role in the making of music…it's all good, as long as the reason for making the music is the right one…and if it is, then I'm happy to be involved.

Speaking of which, thoughts, hopes, excitement and any other insider information you can gleam on this Slowdive reunions business?

I think it's great that Neil is finally getting some real tangible rewards for that music. I'm a big fan, especially of Pygmalion which seemed to me at the time to be largely a solo effort, but also the first EP, which I think in contrast is very much a band thing. I've known Neil for many years now, spent an awful lot of time with him both working on music and socially, but Slowdive has never really been a point of discussion. It's strangely for the most part a mystery to me, and even though I've known Neil since 1992 I have never met anyone from Slowdive apart from Rachel…I'm happy for all of them. It's great music and they deserve to play it and have direct feedback from their audience, rather than whomever it is that owns the copyrights to the records rehashing and selling it off over and over again.

What is next for the Children of the Stones? More collaborative fusions in the cards?

We'll see how the record goes, it would be great to play some live dates if anyone would like to see us. If that becomes a possibility, I'd like to get a band together so that we can convey some of the richness present on the record.

Someone with a bit of skill on how music, cultures, and the business has evolved, just was wondering what your thoughts were having observed many moments, momentums and more, and where you see the future directions, as your music feels very pointed toward.

Its a double edged sword. Technology has meant that music can be made that was not previously possible, which is good. But it's also meant that there is very little chance of making a living out of making music that is genuinely new. Retreading ideas and remaking the old seems to be the currency. But ultimately, the good will out I think. So many great records that people still listen to were made in the pre-internet age. Since the year 2000, very few records are remembered as classics or timeless works. But they do still get made, just very infrequently.

Children of the Stones' Extended Play is available now from Saint Marie Records.

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