Friday, November 22, 2013

Up From the Underground: Ximena Borges's Joyful Noise

I am more of a winter Solstice guy than X-mas, though I have a three year old who likes Christmas lights and and the thought of a big fat elf monger bringing toys, so it's celebrate it at least a Jack Skellington sense. So it wasn't until the second song that I realized this was a X-mas album. Ximena is pretty easy on the eyes so while perusing her Bandcamp page, I was distracted from this fact, though aware I was listening to very different arrangement of the Little Drummer.

This is an X-mas album for people who hate X-mas music. Lets face it the holidays are pretty goth as they have the highest suicide rates of the year, so the X-mas music that is piped in at the mall and on every radio station not twerking it after Thanksgiving is pretty depressing and not in the Morrissey way we like around here. This collection of acapella X-mas songs from around the world for the most part strays from the more conventional versions, with the exception of "Amazing Grace".

Ximena is an opera singer based out of New York, who funded this album through a Kickstarter campaign, so was pretty passionate about making this happen."Crunchy Drummer Boy" is not unlike some Rahzel and Mike Patton might have done if Peeping Tom covered this traditional choral or more playful version of what Bjork did on "Medulla". She seems to have fun on songs where she sets aside the hollow tone of technical operatic singing and explores the rang of sounds she can create with her voice. Some of the bell like chiming of her upper register reminds my of Elizabeth Fraiser of the Cocteau Twins.

Their is a slight Kate Bush like theatrical quality to Ximena's approach to " Oh Tannenbaum". It takes on a swanky 1940's jazz swing. "Divin Enfant" find the backing ground vocalizations creating a dripping blanket of ghostly snow flakes for the more traditional vocal to sit upon. I like the mournful quality to both this song and the somber tone of "Nino Lindo" which finds itself encircles more playful vocal accompaniment to provide a sonic juxtaposition . It captures what I feel to be the feeling of this season, the darkness of winter, that brings melancholy off set but the childhood wonderment.

The more experimental world music elements returns with the bossa nova elements in "Ana Viejo". The more operatic tone returns to her voice for "Christmastime is Here", though a dreamy jazz like quality echoes in the voices she paints around herself. The album continues to take a world tour though the various cultural expression of the holiday songs on "Luna Timbosa" though when it comes to labeling this world music, keep in mind she samples from much different flavors than say Dead Can Dance, even though this album has melancholy reflective moments its by no means dark.

"Noche de Bach" is her take on "Silent Night" and it's pretty faithful in terms of melody and arrangement. "Santa Baby" is far from the Madonna version, though it retains the ragtime sultry nature. Her take on "Amazing Grace" which I don't normally think of as a holiday song, has enough soul in it to be a convincing performance of the gospel classic. She has a great voice and her experimentations with her voice have paid off in this passion project that is worth your time, if  the normal X-mas fare doesn't cut it for you. Would like to her her voice put to use in her future endeavors which I hope are just as adventurous.I normally hate X-mas music so for her to sway me is a testament to what she has crafted.      

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