I will admit, mostly only in moments when I am caught off guard, that I like Christmas carols. I like them in the way I like jelly beans and musk sticks and all those other things that you tend to enjoy in private because you don't want to admit that you've never really grown out of them.
But, even so, finding a new and interesting take, however freaky, on the old, the trusted and the familiar is always kind of nice. Like Mars Bars deep fried in batter. Or Christmas Carols performed by avant garde (mostly) Japanese musicians.
So, when I happened quite by accident to stumble across an album that opened with Japanese noise-punksters Melt-Banana doing an absolutely insane version of 'White Christmas' and closed with my revered noise icon, Merzbow, doing 'Silent Night' more creepily than anything even drug-induced nightmares could come up with, I just had to get it.
In between those two mad, mad bookends is a slimy, sleazy version of 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' by Secret Chiefs 3, a sort of psychedelic grindcore band from California; 'Here Comes Santa Claus' in a no-wave hip-hop fusion from Japanese indie rock band Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her; a few moments of almost ambient peace, so much needed after all the craziness we've had so far, when Gastr del Sol perform 'The Bells of St Mary' with a stillness that, for me, sounds almost like the serenely beautiful louanges in Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps.
But it's only a short respite and we get a totally trippy 'Sleigh Ride' from avant-noise artist Masaya Nakahara, aka Hair Stylistics, where odd bursts and blurps of noise are interspersed with creepy bits of sleigh music that fade in and out and displace everything, like a poltergeist. Then there's the 'Parade of The Wooden Soldiers', turned into a haunted, whispered piece of hardcore horror by SxOxB, a weird experimental band that pioneered grindcore in Japan; and, finally before the Merzbow, an unsettlingly childlike rendition of 'Marshmallow World' by God is my co-pilot, a New York gender-bending queercore outfit that sings flat and turns everything, even innocence, into percussion.
The album is called The Christmas Album - so, if you Google it, you are going to get lots and lots of links before you get to this - which, in any event, seems pretty hard to come by. But if you're feeling you've overdosed on seasonal sugar, and you want your musk sticks and jelly beans to freak you out a bit for a change, then this is worth hunting down. The whole thing is over in less than half an hour - but Christmas will never be the same again.