Electronic Christmas Songs
Given the number of synths on show we could be a little sneaky and say that Paul McCartney’s ‘Wonderful Christmas’ is electronic Christmas music’s most famous song but then let’s instead focus on the task in hand. And you can’t look too far beyond Mannheim Steamroller who are not only utterly electronic in direction but have lavished all their attention on reinventing Christmas standards through the prism of a synthesiser. Their most recognised Christmas album is ‘Mannheim Steamroller Christmas’ which gave perennials like ‘Deck The Halls’, ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and ‘Silent Night’ a futuristic instrumental edge. The 1984 recording may sound a tad dated at this stage given how much electronic technology has moved on but that hasn't stopped the Chip Davis led group from selling millions of copies.
While Mannheim Steamroller are certainly the hardest working electronic Christmas music pioneers there are plenty of other instances where electronica has infiltrated the sound of the season. Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin (‘Boxing Day’) might be among the most experimental artists within the genre but both have contributed singular electronic Christmas songs. Boards of Canada’s ‘Soylent Night’ is particularly eerie and warped but the Scottish duo do get their point across. Only slighty less oblique is Depeche Mode’s industrial sounding ‘Christmas Island’ which was released as a b-side to their 1986 single ‘A Question of Lust’.
A lot more palatable to the untrained ear is Nathan Fake’s ‘Silent Night’ from 2005 which has a touch of the tubular bells about it with added glitchy backdrops and nicely assembled percussion. Our favourite of the lot though comes from a 2004 compilation called ‘Holiday Lounge – The Christmas Remixes’ where John Beltran does wonders with Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’. In looping the short opening piece of brass he gives the piece a distinctly danceable verve that is equal parts jazz and electronica. No festive gathering should be without it.
Finally if you wish to go the whole hog and just bath in a truly great synthesiser Christmas album then you must seek out ‘Switched On Santa’ wherein moog synthesiser sound architect Sy Mann glories up a dozen seasonal favourites with nothing but the machines for company. It is otherworldly, slightly bizarre but entirely loveable. An outcome of less than merry would be entirely unexpected.