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The holiday season brings the thrill and the cloying annoyance of the familiar. Many people, religious and non-religious, enjoy the shared traditions of a mass holiday. In the area of Christmas songs, for example, a basic repertoire of melodies and lyrics known to most can be sung by a large number of people who otherwise share few direct musical touchstones. The result can be a shared tradition adding the warmth of connections among people--or the irresistible and often painful urge to create novelty songs.

The folks at Kasio Kristmas enter a crowded field when they set out to do a series of Christmas songs on Casio instruments. Chiptune-like versions of Christmas songs predate chiptune music itself. Staring at a set of Christmas standards played on Casio instruments may strike the listener rather like climbing a large gingerbread mountain, only to find that treacle flows like lava from the summit. Yet Kasio Kristmas performs its novelty tasks with a flair and attention to detail often missing from the holiday oddball album.

"Jingle Bells" veers from the expected Casio beepfest into a rampaging bit of melodic fun. "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" uses the expected samples and notions, but manages a kind of frothy charm. "Frosty the Snowman" uses a rap lyric over a series of samples and effects that bring back memories of Beck's "Odelay" album.

The effect is overall gimmicky in a good way. "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" manages to get a Theremin-like sound out of its Casio instrumentation, in an arrangement which brings to mind the worst excesses of Mantovani, with a certain pop-culture name-dropping flair. "Deck the Halls" goes the rapid fire route, with a vidgame frenzy which holds the interest against the odds. "The Little Drummer Boy" features a faux theremin against a slow burn that might not be out of place in a an animated pizza otter's take on post-rock.

The fuzzy charm of this bit of sample math works well. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" irritates no more than half as much as the original, and yet that is irritation enough. “Mele Kalkimaka” sounds like lounge jazz played by a 12 year old on a forgotten fun machine organ, while “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” features robot chipmunk voices.

Kasio Kristmas will not change your life, but it might make you smile - and then cause you to begin sampling your local toy electronic keyboard.

Kasio Kristmas - Frosty The Snowman
Kasio Kristmas - Deck The Halls

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