Kasio Kristmas - Kasio Kristmas [Kasio Kristmas, 2008]

The holiday season brings the thrill and the cloying annoyance of the familiar. Many people, religious and non-religious, enjoy the shared traditions of a mass holiday. In the area of Christmas songs, for example, a basic repertoire of melodies and lyrics known to most can be sung by a large number of people who otherwise share few direct musical touchstones. The result can be a shared tradition adding the warmth of connections among people--or the irresistible and often painful urge to create novelty songs.

Novelty songs serve as simultaneous homage and parody of cultural icons. In the arena of Christmas songs, the picadors joust with the Christmas bull on a regular basis. In the AM radio of my youth, sound samples of dogs barking out a serviceable version of "Jingle Bells" provided a bit of Christmas cheer. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" "Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer" helped show the way that Christmas was in past times, as in this, a day which brings to some the irresistible urge to market gags.

The folks at Kasio Kristmas enter a crowded field when they set out to do a series of Christmas songs on Casio instruments. Chiptune-like versions of Christmas songs predate chiptune music itself. Staring at a set of Christmas standards played on Casio instruments may strike the listener rather like climbing a large gingerbread mountain, only to find that treacle flows like lava from the summit. Yet Kasio Kristmas performs its novelty tasks with a flair and attention to detail often missing from the holiday oddball album.

I'll spare the reader the gear recitation. Suffice it to say that an aggregation of cheap Casio keyboards and simple hand-held games provide the overwhelming musical backing, supplemented by voice and musical samples of the kinds common in remix culture. The production values of the album are good, which is a real plus.

Casio musical instruments instilled in many of us an appreciation for monophonic tones and drones. They also provided the insight that percussion can be just as much about virtual odd sounds as about proper drums. Kasio Kristmas provides the expected "memory lane" of classic Casio sounds. Yet the novelty “stays new”.

"Jingle Bells" veers from the expected Casio beepfest into a rampaging bit of melodic fun. "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" uses the expected samples and notions, but manages a kind of frothy charm. "Frosty the Snowman" uses a rap lyric over a series of samples of sounds and effects in addition to the Casio instruments.

The effect is overall gimmicky in a good way. "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" manages to get a Theremin-like sound out of its Casio instrumentation, in an arrangement which brings to mind the worst excesses of Mantovani, with a certain pop-culture name-droppingflair. The original song lends itself to a better treatment than this, but the track has a certain Spike Jones air. "Deck the Halls" goes the rapid fire route, with a vidgame frenzy which holds the interest against the odds. "The Little Drummer Boy" features a faux theremin against a slow burn that might not be out of place in a an animated pizza otter's take on post-rock.

The fuzzy charm of this bit of sample math works well. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" takes us into reverse glitch tone chiptune heaven, while avoiding the buzzy, frothy beeptasms that can make the genre tiresome. I never realized how the 12 days of Christmas and a hand-held video game share a secret affinity until I heard this song. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" irritates no more than half as much as the original, and yet that is irritation enough. “Mele Kalkimaka” sounds like lounge jazz played by a 12 year old on a forgotten fun machine organ, while “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” features robot chipmunk voices.

“Kasio Kristmas” will not change your life, but it might make you smile - and then cause you to begin sampling your local toy electronic keyboard.


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Kasio Kristmas - Kasio Kristmas