Christmas Decorations – Communal Rust

Christmas Decorations
Communal Rust

It can be difficult to write about really ambient albums because, superficially, so little happens on them. Take Communal Rust as an example. This second release by the band Christmas Decorations goes out of its way to deconstruct what you thought you knew about music.

Moving on from its 2002 Kranky release Model 91, the band has now gone for a layered sound with only very minimal melodies. There are no drums, no vocals; the unnecessaries have been dispensed with altogether. When the guitars do hint at tunefulness, they usually sound like they’re coming from underwater or underground. They’re secondary to the whirs and resonances of unidentifiable origin that hum and hiss throughout.

“Browning Out” spends its 6 minutes with essentially no melody at all. It employs sustained, distorted tones to create its atmosphere. In the background you hear what sounds like wind or maybe water, but who knows exactly what it is? It’s a little creepy and unsettling. The occasional guitar notes give some repeating structure to the movements. “Mice Over Feathers” has a loop of some kind of percussion (fingers on a microphone?), some sliding guitar, and an eerie woodwind-sounding instrument to create its mood.

Some tracks, like “Mirrored Mold,” hint at familiar forms even as they bury those forms under the alien-sounding noises that permeate the CD. Another example would be “Closer To Carpet,” which probably comes closest to accessibility for those unaccustomed to this kind of ambient recording. The narrative of this song emerges from the soundscape and sound scraps in the form of a bassline whose submerged character might even escape your notice at first. Christmas Decorations makes very little attempt to entice you with the familiar. It would rather disarm and engage you with mood, color, and experiment. Even the Durutti Column guitar influence on “Aphid Text” can barely compete with the other happenings on that track.

Fans of Main’s Dry Stone Feed, Zoviet France, and other spacious 90s ambient will appreciate the drumless space of Communal Rust. This kind of release invites you into a world of your own making because almost nothing about it is given, expected, or obvious. It’s open-ended and unmapped. And for this reason, it will have a spot on my heavy-rotation playlist for quite a while, I’m sure.