Hometapes, the label home of an interesting mix of artists ranging from electronica, found sound, and art rock, presents another free holiday collection (donations accepted through Bandcamp will go towards Heifer International). I called last year’s I’ll Be Hometapes for Christmas “sublimely odd.” 2011’s The Never Ending Beginning continues in that same vein. Unlike 2010’s offering, though, I find myself doing some more picking and choosing among the tracks on Never Ending.
This year’s collection opens with Collections of Colonies of Bees on “Jolly Olde St. Nicholas,” a stretched-out instrumental vamping on a few chords paired with glimmers of distorted guitar. It’s not the jolly you expect of St. Nick dashing through the skies on Christmas night; it’s the jolly of St. Nick back home before his fire feeling satisfied that he’s just delivered every present he could. This is followed by singer-songwriter Doug Paisley’s “Winter Days,” reminiscent of a tempered cowboy-tune.
Ormonde’s resonating “Angels We Have Heard on High” echoes throughout the night, an arty approach to the carol. One of the more beautiful songs here, Breathe Owl Breathe’s “Snow Blow” sounds like a Jack Johnson song accented with cello, glockenspiel, and a drone-like acoustic guitar line. Slaraffenland’s electronics introduce “Feliz Navidad” with a prelude of fuzz. The song’s chorus comes in first as a synthesized voice, only to be to accented by Sufjan Stevens-like horns and choir.
The Caribbean strums out “What Child is This” with a variation on the melody line, bringing out a more darkly-lit manger scene with some great electric guitar thrown in as fills. Titling the track “Here Come Those Bells,” Sunless spaces out on “Carol of the Bells” on a subdued, electronica jazz feel. Oh! Pears offers “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” It’s an acoustic guitar strumming out the carol, which stresses the ¾ time, with overdubbed vocals on the later stanzas as if the group showed up at your door caroling in the neighborhood. All Tiny Creatures send up a great electronica cover of Manheim Steamroller doing “Deck the Halls”—adding touches of found sound, sampling, and an edge not in the Manheim Steamroller repertoire.
I am planning on referencing the title of this collection in one of my Christmas sermons, because I think The Never Ending Beginning so aptly describes what happened on that first Christmas. Jesus came to be the eternal, never ending Savior, a beginning for the way of salvation for all people. Christmas is the Never Ending Beginning, leading to the death and resurrection of Jesus, which, in turns, makes our resurrection from the dead possible. So Christmas is beginning of the never ending for us.