Children of the Stones: Extended Play
Saint Marie Records

If the name Children of the Stones is unfamiliar, certainly the man responsible for the project is a more-than-known quantity: Mark Van Hoen, who established himself through his involvement in Black Hearted Brother, Locust, Scala, and Seefeel, plus as a solo artist. Others contributing to the EP include Martin Maeers (whose relationship with Van Hoen goes back to high school) and Angus Finlayson.

But if there's one other thing about Extended Play that stands out right away, it's the relatively restrained character of its first song. Not that there's any law against opening an EP in such manner; it's just that the typical pre-album teaser shines the spotlight on harder-hitting numbers to set the stage for what's to come, in this case the album The Stars and The Silence, scheduled for a late March release. That being said, there's certainly nothing objectionable about the song itself: “The Stars and The Silence,” all hushed vocals and shimmering synth atmospheres, is as fine an example of melancholy, downtempo electropop as one might wish for. And to Van Hoen's credit, the material ventures into different directions in the three originals that follow: “Your Storm” receives an ear-catching twist in having a dubby bass pulse threaded into its dreampop swoon; the synth-heavy “Guiding Light” relocates the group within a kosmische wonderland; and the brooding “Saudade” (Portuguese for yearning) oozes an alluring and rather mystery-laden languour in keeping with the song title.

At EP's end, two remixes offer contrasting profiles of the title track, with the electro-funk treatment by Brooklyn-based quartet Elika covered in soot and grime (the vocals too) and consequently presenting a toughened-up take on the original, whereas the version by East Bay, California outfit Carta concentrates on drawing forth its plaintive essence. Put it all together and the twenty-eight-minute Extended Play presents a more-than-promising harbinger of what one presumably can expect from the full-length. One looks forward to its arrival all the more upon learning that it includes contributions from Rachel Davies (Esben & The Witch), Al Forrester, and Neil Halstead (Slowdive).

March 2014