During hours of mall shopping the week before Christmas, I was subjected the cheesiest remakes of the worst holiday pop tunes ever. Really, I couldn’t care less that you gave your heart away to some undeserving recipient last Christmas. And for goodness sake, I don’t want to hear that you saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus. I love shoegaze all year round, yet when it comes to Christmas music I crave traditional carols. R. M. Hendrix brings the best of both in ‘Night Divine.’
The usual starkness of “O Holy Night” is wholly different in this rendition where the vocals blend with the background, acting like a gentle breeze passing by in a sacred moment. Instead of the boisterous “Fall on your knees” there is simply a pause which beckons the listener to revere this “night when Christ is born.”
A bass groove signifies eminent longing in “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” The vocals here are angelic and solemn, nearly haunting in their beautiful proclamation to “Rejoice!” over the captives being ransomed.
What I like best about these songs is how Hendrix preserves the dignity of the lyrics while translating the carols into the 21st century. “Little Drummer Boy MMXI” is a great example. The mood is set by several drones which draw all attention to the “little baby boy” to whom the boy drummer sings. Hendrix begins with the second stanza, immediately pointing to the relationship between the newborn King and the poor drummer boy. The pa-rum-pum-pum-pum’s are done instrumentally in a dreamy techno-delic fashion. Hendrix ends with repetitions of “And then He smiled at me,” emphasizing the loveliest instant of the tale. The vocals then drift off in blissful contentment.
Following this is five minutes of “The Longest Loudest Silent Night.” Drones again usher in this momentous event, and are soon joined by joyful guitar and tambourine.
The mood is relaxed and happy, laced with psychedelia. Like a retro hippie dreampop Christmas. The instruments work well to enhance the words, causing you to float along as “Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah!” The music is rightfully jubilant when “Christ the Savior is born!” And much like Christmas day, Hendrix’s ‘Night Divine’ too quickly comes to an end.
Get a free download of R.M. Hendrix’s ‘Night Divine’ free through bandcamp.