Santa's new soundscape; Strange Boy's Noël

24 December 2015

Mara Carlyle leads an impressive line-up of new music champions to join London’s newest electronic duo Strange Boy in spreading some paranormal Christmas joy with their debut EP Noël.

It's that time of year again when the people dust off their Christmas playlists and stuff their face through 4597 arrangements of the same twenty carols. First by King's. Then John's. And if you're still standing, you might make it to St. Paul's' new Christmas offering, released in partnership with Classic fM.

Don't get me wrong, there's some GREAT singing on these discs... but it's often left me searching for something a little more imaginative; a defeat that tastes like settling with Pentatonix's endeavours on Carol of the Bells.

Not anymore.

If you're looking for an explorative and genuinely alternative soundscape for your iTunes this Christmas, look no further than the opening arrangement of the Coventry Carol from Strange Boy’s Christmas EP Noël.

 

The second offering from the London duo this year, singer-songwriter Kieran Brunt and producer Matt Huxley here coax the sonant allure of Radio 3's Late Junction presenter Mara Carlyle and singer-songwriter Ana Silvera in accompanying their efforts on this well-known 16th century carol. The latter deserves a special mention with an honest delivery, her trademark mesmerising vocal a nod to her reputation as one of Europe's truly exciting choral collaborators.

© Strange Boy 2015.

The arrangement is a true equilibrium of vocal silk, each in turn demonstrating their individual abilities to hypnotise the listener; Brunt bounds onto centre stage with a stunning third verse, a performance that marries facets of Josh Groban with Sting's best John Dowland guise.

Meanwhile, Huxley's production relays Herod's slaughter of the innocents with a frightening conviction; the juttering strings under the choral textures, matched with the swelling synths force you to question whether the track's beating pulse is in fact your own, or being pumped from the Bowers and Wilkins set up.

The B-Side of this 'Double A-Side' brings the Christmas cheer (there it is!) with an energised and dramatic rendition of the French carol Noël Nouvelet. Brunt and Huxley are supported here by James McVinnie on the organ, and the newly appointed Royal Harpist Anne Denholm, whose tinkling is manipulated effectively by the producer to create a soundscape fit for a BBC sync accompanying a Hamilton-Rosberg title race showdown. The helicopter vibes towards the end propel the listener to 10,000 feet, to observe and be reminded of Herod's carnage in the earlier track.

There's so much visual drawing here in just two tracks that I wouldn't be surprised if we saw next year's releases paired with some really dramatic and absorbing cinematography. You could almost take Rihanna's video spoilers for ANTI, superimpose this arrangement over the top and it wouldn't go amiss.

In short, if sweet angelic singing is what you're after, then move along to the next stop dears.

But if you, like I, want the full apocalyptic experience, you'll want to head down to Union Chapel on 16th January. I can guarantee you that the line-up won't fail to deliver.

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Coventry Carol
Strange Boy (feat. Ana Silvera & Mara Carlyle)
Mixed by Ben Andrews in London

Noël Nouvelet
Strange Boy
James McVinnie, Organ | Anne Denholm, Harp
Mixed by Jonathan Lefèvre-Reich in Paris

Strange Boy are a fresh electronic music act based in London. Melding the beautiful songwriting of vocalist Kieran Brunt with the intricate soundscapes of Matt Huxley. Expect delicate melodic lines and crisp electronic textures wrapped up in soaring string arrangements.

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