Moog synthesizers, Roots Radics, vocoders, Arthur Lyman and other lesser-known Christmas sounds.
There are Christmas songs they have not told you about. Songs that celebrate the season not by relying on tired arrangements of played-to-death standards, but by creating something ineffably freaky.
Over the next few days you’re likely going to be in the presence of one or more people who need to lighten up, or sitting around a crackling fire and looking to enhance the mood. Below are a few lesser-known gems.
Bruce Haack – I Like Christmas
That the brilliant electronic iconoclast Haack never made an entire Christmas album is tragic, but his lone entry, “I Like Christmas,” is a Vocoder-driven joy.
The Free Design – Christmas is the Day
Late 1960s easy listening group the Free Design made a few Christmas songs, and even recorded a half-hour Christmas special for Armed Forces Radio. “Christmas is the Day” will take the edge off of any stress-related family interaction.
The Moog Machine – Carol of the Bells
In the early 1970s as Moog albums were filling budget bins, the Moog Machine issued a truly singular electronic record of Christmas standards. “Carol of the Bells” is the trippiest.
Cocoa Tea – Christmas is Coming
A lot of reggae artists have adapted Christmas songs – all you need to do is add a riddem – but Cocoa Tea’s 1987 single “Christmas is Coming” contains a depth of vibe lacking in more paint-by-numbers attempts.
Arthur Lyman – Christmas Song
A sonic Xanax, Lyman’s smooth, minimal rendition of “Christmas Song,” along with his entire 1964 album of Christmas songs, offers gentle grace in every measure.
This mash-up combines the Carpenters’ strange, mostly disappointing Christmas album with an instrumental by bass player Flabba Holt, guitarist Bingy Bunny and drummer Style Scott, a.k.a. The Roots Radics.
Alan Vega – No More Christmas Blues
Released in 1981 on an unexpected Christmas compilation featuring Material with Nona Hendryx, Kid Creole frontman August Darnell, and Was (Not Was), “No More Christmas Blues” by Suicide’s Alan Vega is one of the saddest sounding Christmas songs we’ve heard and perfectly fitting if you’re having a difficult go at the holidays. “I ain’t gonna be so broke. No more blues,” Vega croons underneath a swirl of brooding synthesizers.
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