Comprised of Andrew Poirier (guitar), Anand Greenwell (saxophone), Chris Mackenzie (drums), William Farrant (bass), and Piers Henwood (guitar), the Victoria, BC-based quintet Astrocolor decided that they wanted to tackle Christmas songs for their forthcoming album Lit Up: Music for Christmas. Featuring guest vocals from Kandle, Rykka, Jets Overhead‘s Antonia Freybe-Smith, and Abi Rose and co-produced by the Canadian quintet and Colin Stewart, best known for his work with Black Mountain, Dan Mangan and AC Newman, the approach to the album was largely inspired by jazz great Stan Getz’s Getz Au Go-Go, as well as Massive Attack, Air and St. Germain. As the band explained in press notes, Stan Getz’s rendition of “Summertime,” ” became a jumping off point for what we were trying to do, taking the classic ‘summertime and the livin’ is easy’ hook and reshaping it into an exploratory piece. We too wanted to create a sense of familiarity and exploration within the context of a Christmas album.”
“We Three Kings,” the first single off Lit Up: Music for Christmas is a noir-ish and moodily atmospheric song that sounds as though it owes as much of a sonic debt to jazz as it does to dubstep and trip hop as Abi Rose’s seductive, jazz standard vocal stylings are paired with a mournful horn line, swirling electronics, angular, funk guitar and bass, and plinking keys submerged in layers upon layers of reverb to craft a rendition of a familiar song that’s hauntingly mournful and cinematic — while being simultaneously intimate and sensual.
I’ve played the song a number of times before writing this post, and every time I can picture the three kings with their gifts riding through moonlit, desert skies to Bethlehem to see the baby Christ. But perhaps more important, it puts a modern spin on to a song that many of us have heard so much that its meaning and importance has been reduced to background music at the mall or in a commercial.