Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Der Bingle's Essentials: Substance W "A Boiling Vat of Adhesive Xmas"

So, I expect that my readers will be firmly divided into two camps with today's Essential, "A Boiling Vat of Adhesive Xmas" by Substance W.  One camp will already be well aware of this way-outside-the-norm album of Christmas brilliance.  The other camp will be squarely in "What the heck?" land.

I first learned of Substance W, and this album specifically, over at Capt OT's place A Christmas Yuleblog (by the way Cap, we sure do miss the blog, but we sure do love your emerging presence on the radio with your wonderful holiday programming at WBOI).  With the Captain's urging, I bought a digital download and set about experiencing this, let's say, collection of re-interpreted Christmas standards.

So, let's see, what do you get when you jump into Substance W...

  • 28 tracks
  • 9, count 'em, 9 machine-gun bursts of variations on "O Christmas Tree" with subtitles such as "Slap My Bass Mix" and "Monkey Like Banana Mix"
  • Layers upon layers of sounds - traditional instruments, non-traditional instruments, vocals, sound effects, cartoon sounds...
Summing it all up, it's the most creatively explosive, or is it explosively creative I'm not sure, Christmas album you'll ever hear.

"Switched on Bethlehem" is a favorite of mine on this album.  It builds and builds, changes and changes, and just when you think it is nearing a state of resolution, it unleashes an aural tsunami that includes those sonic whip-sticks employed by the Blue Man Group.  Wow.

"Jingle Jingle Jingle" is performed with a gruff vocal, channeling a bit of Tom Waits, and with a bar-band rock beat, a little bit of piano thrown in, some organ/synth, maybe a steel guitar, and an Ornette Coleman-style break.

"We're a Couple of Misfits" may be inspired by the Misfits - I think Jon Solomon may be able to judge appropriately.  Let's just say 'energetic and upbeat'.

"A Visit from St. Nicholas", a recitation backed by selections from various styles of The Nutcracker Suite is semi-traditional, especially if your childhood traditions included hours and hours of The Flintstones and other Hanna-Barbera cartoons.  

The thing about this album is that Substance W really understands these songs.  They haven't just thrown these together as quick-n-dirty novelty recordings.  They get the song structures, they get the lyrics, they get the traditions.  These odd, strange, songs show absolute reverence to the traditional songs.  Way more reverence than the walk-throughs released every year by the recording "stars" of the day.

So, my raving aside, this may not be for everyone.  If you like Christmas music and want a dozen albums to supplement your local annual Christmas radio, this isn't for you.  If you love Christmas music and are starting to explore the edges, listen to some samples and make a decision.  If you want to jump in and be a Christmas Music Collector, then you gotta have this.  Essential.