Whiteout: Experimental Covers of Holiday Classics will endure past the Christmas season

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Various artists
Whiteout: Experimental Covers of Holiday Classics (Independent)

Bringing new meaning to the term white noise, White Poppy (aka Crystal Dorval) has curated a unique compilation of Christmas covers by a variety of experimental musicians from Vancouver and abroad. The result is Whiteout: Experimental Covers of Holiday Classics, a collection that is perfectly appropriate to listen to even with December 25 now in the rearview mirror.

The 16-track album has its share of hits and misses, but let’s focus on the positive. Whiteout’s first half is stronger, opening with Cough Cool’s “Joy to the World”, which buries holiday cheer under a snowbank of Jesus and Mary Chain–esque fuzz.

White Poppy’s “Last Christmas”, where an infectious melody shimmers through icy six-string distortion, reminds me of a wonky, damaged musical toy. And I mean that in a good way. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” gets a lo-fi make-over by Brendan Codey, who croons over a drum-machine beat with a dirgelike moan, transforming the classic into something more unsettling—as if the song’s protagonist, a World War II soldier, died in a dark trench at the beginning of December.

Ginseng’s “Santa Baby” is the freakiest reworking, warping the old standard with dark synth goo and a demented vocal track that’s basically an extremely slowed-down, unsexy perversion of Eartha Kitt’s purr. Ian K.’s “Little Drummer Boy” is satisfyingly twisted too, pierced through with spikes of crackling feedback and flurries of mesmerizing noise.

On “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, Drogue mimics a violin’s sustained note with a glimmering guitar drone, while Ellen Kibble breathes a dreamy hymnal incantation. And on “Slvr Blls”, Ylang Ylang evokes the original’s imagery with sound rather than lyrics, and the track shines and chimes. All in all, some wonderfully out-there work.

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