Christmas Decorations – Model 91

Yet another Kranky Records release that focuses all of its efforts on darker electronic-based music. Is it just me or has the label that brought us such unique bands as Godspeed You Black Emperor, Low, and Labradford completely shifted its format to abstract and obtuse electronic artists? Christmas Decorations, despite its strange name, brings us more of the same oddity we’ve come to expect from fellow label mates Fontanelle, Loscill, and Stars of the Lid.
Following the trend of bands like Boards of Canada, Autechre, and more recently bands like Wauvenfold, Christmas Decorations is a duo that brings us soft and melancholic electronic passages that entrance the listener to a completely different mental state. Unlike the aforementioned bands, Christmas Decorations hails from the United States, more specifically, Brooklyn, NY. When one does a bit of research on the band, they might be taken aback as to find the duo uses a lot of conventional instrumentation such as guitars, basses, distorted vocals, and melodicas to achieve its unique sound. Although the group does use low-budget digital sequencers, most of their creations are primarily analog based.
On Model 91, the group’s debut full-length record, they meander around various elements such as minimalism, structure, and experimentation to find their sound. All of this is perfectly fine if they are able to effectively use such elements to create interesting soundscapes to the listener. Unfortunately, quite the opposite is true. Out of the 13 tracks on the record, which spans over 38 minutes, not a single song do I find interesting. Simply put, the group is unable to achieve any type of memorable hooks or melodies that is fundamental in the genre they’re working in. When one thinks back to classic electronic/IDM albums like Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right to Children or Autechre’s Incunabula, distinct and interesting melodies are formed, which makes the music very accessible and an overall pleasant listening experience.
I’ve also found that Model 91 does not flow very well as a collective record. Short tracks that last for two to three minutes spin around leaving nothing but sour, off-kilter notes that feel like something out of a bad futuristic horror movie.
In summary, I find this album to be a disappointment full of pretension. The band has nothing substantial to back up its distinct dark sound. Fortunately for the rest of us, Kranky has put out some phenomenal material lately by a slew of talented artists like Out Hud and Stars of the Lid. Unlike Christmas Decorations, these two releases are definitely worth picking up.