Boomkat Product Review:
Laura Cannell and André Bosman re-imagine Wintery musical canon that's a million miles away from the mall-poised cheese that haunts the dwindling consumer mallscape each year. Sobering expressive folk history.
Last seen together on 2018's ace "Reckonings" full-length, longtime collaborators Laura Cannell and André Bosman reconvene on "New Christmas Rituals" to imagine a seasonal spread that's significantly unhooked from the commercialised (and Americanised) traditions we endure during Yuletide each year. Europe's folk history is more complicated and far deeper than turkey, Hallmark cards and Bing Crosby; the Christmas we know was conceptualized in Victorian times: Santa Claus (or Father Christmas) was a 19th century import, and Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol" was first published in 1843, showing the British public how they were expected to act. Long before this, the period was celebrated for 12 days of drinking, eating and dancing; the exchange of gifts was a hangover from the Roman occupation, and many customs pre-dated even that. Drinking alcoholic drinks and welcoming the midwinter period with fire was commonplace in pagan Yule celebrations, and music was undoubtedly another constant.
Cannell and Bosman's celebration of the "new" peers into this unfurling history, juxtaposing compositions like the Victorian-era carol 'Deck the Halls' with earlier standards like 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' (from the 1650s) and Tudor standard 'Green Groweth the Holly', written by none other than Henry VIII himself in the early 16th century. 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel' is even older, translated into English from Latin and originating in Medieval monasteries in the 8th century. Each standard is reinterpreted by the duo in their particular style and performed without vocals; both are self-taught violinists and cut through the technicality of their performance with a familiarity with folk standards and a healthy interest in early music. It gives the renditions a freshness that feels vital, the stiffness that began to constrain church music in the Victorian era is nowhere to be found, and even when they're reinterpreting later compositions, Cannell and Bosman do so with the inebriated lilt of the distant past.
Just as our ancestors had to re-learn Christmas celebrations after aggy puritanism snatched it from our shores, it feels as if now might be a good time to find a new way of interfacing with a tired, deeply commercialised holiday. Cannell and Bosman's music is an antidote to both greyscale, Tory traditionalism and more recent hackery, and like Cannell's solo output this year, it makes fresh discoveries by re-examining the music of our past. If we're forced to memorialise this period and reflect on thousands of years of Northern European midwinter merriment, we deserve a soundtrack that acknowledges its long and complicated history. Sublime music.