Sunday, December 17, 2023

Pondertone, in spite of it all

CAGG Team loves to feature Dutch artists making Christmas music - Clean Pete, The Heck, Rick Buur, Non-Traditionals, Fay Lovsky...and that's just a handful of fellow Dutchies that shone on this blog.

We posted a lot of Pondertone (Americana from the city of Utrecht) on CAGG. The songs have depth and a clear message. For these dark days, we were kinda hopin' that Patrick & the guys would release a new addition to their impressive Xmas discography. But no. Instead there is a compilation of all seasonal songs. Patrick Tersteeg (= Mr Pondertone) wrote an extensive blogpost about the ins and outs of his tracks, and leaves us a not so cheerful message:

"Anyone hoping for a new Pondertone Christmas song this year will be disappointed. I'm sorry, I don't have anything to say this year that I haven't said before. Pondertone's 'new' Christmas album is literally old wine in a new bottle. For the artwork I used sketches that I found too depressing last year. The gray, pixelated image you see may appear to show christmas trees but what you see actually is a forest fire. Merry Christmas (in spite of it all) contains all 12 Christmas songs we have made over the years. Below I will share my thoughts on a few of my personal favorites from the album.

With the Christmas songs that I made with Roel Jorna (Gasoline Brothers, the Wrong Reasons) and many other friends, I tried to convey my mixed feelings about Christmas. It all started with Pondertone being asked to contribute a song to the Cover Club album Christmas Candy From The Netherlands in 2009.

As few people seem to remember these days, there had been a war in Gaza in January of that year as well. According to Wikipedia, the conflict resulted in 1,166 to 1,417 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths (including 4 by friendly fire). But apart from that, the tension in that part of the world has risen with the falling of the leaves, every year for as long as I can remember. Inspired by the classic Simon And Garfunkel song 7 O'Clock News/Silent Night, I decided to combine a rather classical arrangement, written by Tom Swart, of the ultimate Christmas carol Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht with one of the most haunting sounds ever produced by man ; that of alarm horns... And since this fall, all hell has broken loose in Israel/Palestine.
Apart from one exception, with every new song I tried to make critical comments on Christmas.
With Everything I Want For Christmas Is... from 2017, I dove deep into the apparent ‘conflict of interest’ between the consumerism that Oscar also sang about on one hand and Peace on Earth on the other. With help from our daughter Mien and her class from primary school, I let the children have their say.
On Christmas Just ain't Christmas I was joined by the Blue Grass Boogiemen. With this song, released in 2014, I tried to convey the feeling of loneliness, loss and regret that some people experience even more intensely at Christmas. The original version was made famous by the O’Jays, but I added extra verses to it. The voicemail message I wrote to serve as a kind of parlando bit still sends shivers down my spine.
In 2016 I thought I could still see the funny side of the advance of the far right in general and the election of Trump when I wrote Make Christmas Great Again. The first half of the song is based on a part of Who Took The Merry Out of Christmas by the Staples Singers. For the video I shot some material with a selfie stick, and videographer Tessel Schmidt combined it with loads of Christmas vlogs. To further the camp-feeling of the vlog parody, I had animated karaoke graphics made for everyone to sing along.
But in 2020 I saw the results of Trump's presidency, the neo-liberalist-conservative government in England and the globally advancing right-wing extremism and thought it couldn't get any worse. I wrote The Darkest Christmas Of All as a warning for Christmas to come if we went along with this...

For the video I made a montage of found footage of merry Christmases long ago with, among other things, images of concentration camps from the Second World War and the war in the former Yugoslavia, but also extreme right-wing manifestations in the years leading up to Christmas 2019. While editing the video I had tears in my eyes...
But it turned out that it could be even darker than the Darkest Christmas of All...
Despite the war in the Ukraine and the increasingly clear threat of an environmental catastrophe, last year I was able to scrape together my last inspiration and hope for the ultra-short song Merry Christmas (in spite of it all).

But this year I really couldn't do it anymore... As if things couldn't get worse and more short-sighted, the most important climate meeting this year was hosted by the largest oil-exporting country in the world. Now that Trump has a good chance of being re-elected and there is an ultra-right sex therapist president in Argentina, the government in Israel is extreme right, the government in England is becoming even more so and there is a far right government on the horizon even in the Netherlands. To say I am worried of what lies ahead is an understatement.
But still…

Merry Christmas (in spite of it all)"

You can listen to the entire album 'for free' on all streaming media. But you'd rather listen to it on Bandcamp, because there you can make a donation for our efforts.


Anonymous said...

I read this all with tears in my eyes and couldn't agree more. To be honest (and quite judgmental too, I know) - anyone who is genuinely feeling good at the moment must be a superficial, utterly selfish, uncaring tw*t. To end each year with a 'hopeful' "Well... at least it can't get any worse" only to find out it very much can get much worse is so deeply sad and exhausting. I try to do what I can. I try to help, I try to live a good life, I donate my ass off... but I feel so helpless. I'm an introvert, but I feel like hosting a big get-together with like-minded people to just hug each other. Love to everyone who reads this and feels the same. Chantal.

Patrick said...

Thanks very much for your heartfelt comment, Chantal. I think what you’re suggesting is the only way to conquer the proverbial cold and dark that seems to be taking over... Hold on, we’re not alone.