VARIOUS ARTISTS: A Dark Noel (CD on Projekt)
This release from 2007 offers 42 minutes of darkwave, gothic and ethereal covers of Christmas tunes.
Tired of Yuletide classics and barking dogs? Yearning for a significant change of pace? Something left of center and decidedly underground? The type of subversion you can sneak past the relatives? Well, this CD delivers all that...and solid, enjoyable music too.
Here's what you get:
Arcanta (Thomas-Carlyle Ayres on voice and bells, and Jason Everette on samples and programming) doing "Carol of the Bells." A decidedly cathedralesque rendition of this classic, with heavenly chorales and bells so delicately processed that you might not recognize them until the last ringing note.
Voltaire, featuring Unto Ashes (Voltaire on vocals and acoustic guitar, Gregor Kitzis on violin, Michael Laird on drums, percussion, and treatment, Natalia Lincoln on keyboards and backing vocals, Erich Hagle on backing vocals, and Jeremy Bastard on guitar) playing "Peace in the Holy Land." A gothic handling with strong Israeli seasoning that blends synagogue with a streetcorner band. Cheery and eccentric.
Love Spirals Downwards (Ryan Lumm on instruments, and Suzanne Perry on vocals) doing "Welcome Christmas" from Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. A superbly modern, quite haunting execution of this normally-fanciful tune. Extravagantly dramatic with astral vocals and celestial guitar strumming steeped in nebulous textures.
Autumn's Grey Solace (Scott Ferrell on instruments, and Erin Welton on vocals) playing "Through the Snowy Trees." A dreamy excursion through the icy woods, replete with divine vocals and softly delineated guitar and gentle percussion. Rises nicely to a crystalline approximation of Cocteau Twins at their best.
black tape for a blue girl (Sam Rosenthal on electronics, and Lucian Casselman on vocals) doing "Chanukkah, Oh Chanukkah." Going dark with this one, the mood reverberates with reverent tension achieved with momentous muted crashes and funereal percussion and dense strings, while the vocal layers coalesce into a mesmerizing trance.
Rhea's Obsession with Athan Maroulis (Sue Hutton on instruments and vocals, Athan Maroulis on vocals, and Jim Field on instruments) playing "We Three Kings." Emphatic zithers. Clomping percussion mimicking horseshoes. Eerie atmospherics. Masterful vocal harmonies. All conspiring to produce a gripping rendition.
The Cruxshadows (Rogue on vocals and keyboards, Chris Bentley on analog moduling, Rachel McDonnell on violin and keyboards, and Kevin Page on guitars) doing "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." Imagine a fusion of raucous rock and gothic sensibilities. Strident vocals, garbage can percussion, sepulchral violin, grinding arena guitar. John Lennon's song never sounded so dire, so intense, so electrified.
Audra (Bret on vocals and instruments) doing "Let the Reindeer Live on my Roof." A more straight-ahead version with determinedly strummed guitar, mournful strings, and positively commercial vocals. Still possesses a quirky aspect, though.
Unto Ashes (Mariko on vocals, Natalia Lincoln on vocals, and Michael Laird on guitars, dulcimer, percussion, and vocals) doing "For I Am Winter Born". Very moody application of instruments counterpointed with choral vocal arrangements that seem to impress theological mien on a seasonal anthem.
El Duende (Oscar Herrera on vocals, and Juan Carlos Rodriguez on keyboards, programming, and vocals) doing "Gaudete, Gaudete." A synthetic orchestral flair bolsters the regal vocals, ushering in music that has escaped a grand cathedral and found refuge in your ears.
Faith and the Muse (Monica Richards on voice, saxophone, and recorders, and William Faith on voice, acoustic guitar, keyboards, and percussion) playing "A Winter Wassail." A Celtic take with piercing female vocals, pennywhistle and traditional percussion and modern guitar.
Attrition (Martin Bowes on electronics, and Sister Teresa on voice) doing "Silent Night." An extremely dark finale as disquieting tonalities generate apprehension, while tiny vocals croon for a good night's rest. Eerie impacts and chittering effects do not bode well for that supplication.
All told, a remarkably satisfying dose of darkwave tuneage that has some serious fun with holidays favorites.
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