Black Rain label compilations

[Black Snow 2 sleeve]"Black Snow 2" (Compilation Album, 2010) !DSO Recommended!

Black Rain

Following on from the first Black Snow compilation in 2009, it comes as no surprise that such an inspired idea and execution has prompted Black Rain to release this 2010 sequel. Like its predecessor, this pulls together both cover versions and original compositions, the common connection simply being the Yuletide season. Some choose to celebrate this special time of year, others spit upon it and all it stands for. Either way the results are again well worth delving into.

Familiar and new names rub shoulders with each other throughout, so for every Leaether Strip there’s a Reliquary. Good news is these previously unknown contributors are, for the most part, every bit as good as their forbears. Well worthy of extra special mention are Electro Xcentric for their decidedly David Lynchian take on Santa Baby – supremely eerie. The proceedings finish in a flourish with Feindflug enlisting the vocal duties of Sara Noxx on a suitably martial cover of The Impossible Dream (you know, the one from the cool Honda advert ;-)). It would be a shame to only air this but once a year – definitely not just for Christmas. 8/10

Rob Dyer (December, 2010)

[Black Snow sleeve]"Black Snow" (Compilation Album, 2009) !DSO Recommended!

Black Rain

Good title. Good concept. Good album. Subtitled “The completely different Xmas compilation” this inspired release is a collection of Dark Wave, Industrial and Electro tracks each with a unique interpretation of the Christmas song ideal. Fiendflug get the prime opening slot and well-deserved it is too. Wintergedanken is a beautifully sweeping dark instrumental whose only tangible nod towards the genre are the few seconds of sleigh bells that began and close the track (and a faint “Ho-Ho-Ho” chuckle from the chubby one himself in the final seconds). Anyone new to Fiendflug will instantly want to treat themselves to a Christmas present from their back catalogue such is the impressive quality of this terrific piece.

Other artists have chosen a more traditional route with cover versions of seasonal classics Hava Nagila (Hioctan) and Little Drummer Boy (DYM) – both of which are near the top of the tree in terms of execution and decorative impact. DYM’s collapsing breakbeat take on Drummer Boy in particular is a creative standout that deserves to be aired throughout the year – not just confined to Xmas. Leonard Coen's much-recorded Halleluja puts in an appearance courtesy of Novalis Deux and is far gentler than the recent overwrought, shrill release by X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke. Then there’s the two covers of the more obscure 1940’s I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas by Dandelion Wine and, from the 50’s, Tausend Sterne sind ein Den by Plane to Pia. Meanwhile, Tyske Ludder clamber their way through a two-parter that fuses The Pogues/Kirsty MacColl modern Xmas classic Fairytale of New York with Fairytale of The North.

And what a great way to discover lesser-known acts! Of which there were plenty for me. Notable acts new to these ears include the superbly Karl Bartos-like Oil 10 on Christmas Machine (!). Plus some nicely old school, punk-inspired entries courtesy of Die Perlen (Ohne Strom kein Weihnachtsmark), This Vale of Tears (Frozen Zone). Atomic Neon fully explore their Cure obsession on the equally Cure-like entitled We Die At Christmas. Whilst The Pussybats’ A Wish provides a suitably warming swansong built around a mellow acoustic guitar and cello with a mixed male/female vocal.

Diverse, unpredictable and rewarding, Black Snow is a surprising success. This should definitely become as much a part of the yuletide season as snow blanketed landscapes and indulgent, if slightly odd, alcoholic beverages. I’m already looking toward Christmas 2010 and “Black Snow 2 – The Second Coming”. Halle-bloody-luja! 8/10

Rob Dyer (December, 2009)