If I’d had to guess about the sound of Moue’s album, Xmas, before listening to it, I would have struggled. The Asheville-based band is Andrew Larson (Telecine) and Lauren Carol Brown (Knives and Daggers), associated with experimental and shoe gaze projects, respectively. And, while Xmas has its experimental moments, these are stitched into the fabric of gorgeous strings arrangements whose lush voices sing traditional carols with midnight mass solemnity. Which is not to say that the seven tracks are stuffy — they’re breathtakingly lovely and uplifting.
“Still Still Still” has the most ring and inherent brightness; those characteristics are balanced with layers of static, noise and reverb. But the combination is a sparkling heartfelt tribute not to Christmas past but to the absolutely shine of now.
“O Holy Night” is another velvety take on a classic. A violin sweetly bows the well-thumbed melody, but spacey undertones and perfectly placed atonal notes remove any hint of the song’s mawkish typicality.
Larson and Brown’s two original compositions, “For You” and “Sink” feel right at home amid the holiday explorations. The first is based in soothing low notes with melodic eddies and swooning strings. The latter pulses with warm resonance, its upward scales pushing through whispered hints of vocals into candlelit ethers.
Xmas is a sweeping work of care and tempered joy, a song cycle that would be at home in a vaulted-ceiling nave as easily as a watering hole. It’s an album inextricably linked to tradition yet forged new for a jaded (though not altogether disenchanted) generation of listeners.
The album is available for a name-your-price download on Bandcamp.