Edmund Welles — Hymns for Christmas (Zeroth Law, 2012)
I’ve been a fan of Edmund Welles (the bass clarinet quaret) and recently posted about how their latest album took a turn for the metal. So I had to wonder what dark horrors would be dredged up when Edmund Welles went and did a Christmas album.
None, it turns out. Unless you count Christmas music itself as a horror. I have to admit, I’m in that camp, due to decades of exposure to syrupy muzak and cloying lite rock. There’s a Bay Area station that plays that stuff 24 hours a day during December — and they brag about it, and the Law does nothing to stop them. What a world.
I tend to forget that Christmas music started out as simple classical/folk songs. That’s what Hymns for Christmas delivers, an elegant, stripped-down approach that’s so refreshing.
Cornelius Boots, the brains behind Edmund Welles, wrote some eloquent notes (and a nice blog entry) about what the music means to him and how he shaped his approach, citing Dickens and handbell choirs along the way. It’s that kind of Christmas music, without the artificial sweeteners, played as gently as falling snow.
That, I can live with. And while listening, you can marvel at the range of the bass clarinet — which, as Boots points out, comes close to the range of male vocalizing. It’s possibly the most enjoyable Christmas caroling I’ve ever heard.
Listen for yourself at Bandcamp, CD Baby, or Cornelius Boots’ store … which is part of a snazzy new web site for all his work in general. This entry is peppered with links to it, but here’s one more just to be gratuitous.