Children Of The Stones: MCM EP
Saint Marie Records

Saint Marie Records has a habit of setting its EPs apart from the crowd by handling their contents with an audacity that exceeds the norm. That was clearly demonstrated when the early 2014 Lilies On Mars EP, Dream of Bees, included not only a remix by the San Francisco pop outfit Silver Swans but a startling classical reinvention by cellist extraordinaire Julia Kent. On the MCM EP, Children Of The Stones follows its debut album The Stars And The Silence in similarly audacious manner by not only featuring, appropriately enough, a remix by Lilies on Mars but a twenty-seven-minute epic that can't help but dwarf the release's other content.

As previously reported, Children Of The Stones is a new project masterminded by Mark Van Hoen (Black Hearted Brother, Locust, Seefeel, Scala) that features contributions from Martin Maeers, Neil Halstead (Slowdive, Mojave 3, Black Hearted Brother), and Rachel Davies, among others. The EP's drawing card isn't the edited version of the wistful album ballad, “Ever Within,” as satisfying as its soothing vocal and entrancing sound design are. As we noted earlier, Van Hoen's slightly nasal-tinged delivery invites comparison to the singing of OMD's Andy McCluskey, though that's no bad thing. Restrained, too, is the remix by Lilies On Mars' Lisa Masia and Marina Cristofalo of the album's closing song, “Save For Me,” which retains the Children Of The Stones identity despite whatever instrumental sweetening the remixers brought to it.

“MCMXCII” is clearly the release's most noteworthy track for reasons that go beyond mere length. Van Hoen and Maeers recorded it in 1992, having intended it for an album whose songs would flow into one another (a detail that helps account for the track's episodic structure), but the project wasn't completed at the time. With the multi-track tape having been lost years ago, the EP version ended up being restored from a ‘92 DAT tape mixdown. The most fascinating thing about “MCMXCII” is how small the distance is between its sound and that of the recent material. Oh, sure, there are differences—there's a trippy, analog synthesizer-heavy character to the early piece that's more pronounced than in the newer Children Of The Stones material—but similarities, too, foremost among them Van Hoen's distinctive voice. Not surprisingly, “MCMXCII” unspools as an epic travelogue, with shoegaze guitar textures, dub-techno and acid-house rhythms, and psychedelic swirl key parts of its heady design.

July 2014