The Christmas Bunch: The incredible industrial-electro origins of Alison Goldfrapp

Having a rifle through my tunes tonight I rediscovered three releases from an obscure outfit called “The Christmas Bunch”. Like a fair proportion of my records, these were all bought second hand. In fact I think I grabbed them all for less than a quid over a few years in the late 80s.

They sound OK. Not amazing, but there’s enough going on to hold your attention. And I quite liked the anonymity of it all, after over twenty years holding onto these records I was still none the wiser about the people behind them – (insert ominous crescendo) until now.

The first Christmas Bunch product I found must have been their “Hit No. 1″ single. A one-sided twelve inch with minimal rubber stamped markings and a biro scribbling announcing it as 230 out of 250 copies.

It ain’t bad actually – characteristically stiff “dance” beats which could politely be described as motorik. There are some nice vocal samples and arrangements which remind a bit of the Art of Noise. The actual vocals spoil it for me a little, a bit too earnest and shouty – even for me, ha ha.

“Hit No.1″ also came with this intriguing free gift, made up to look like an executive toy or educational tool:

As you can see, it’s two circles of printed card with a central pin. Windows in the front card reveal words printed on the rear one, in combinations like “glitter [....] ofcorruption” and “hide [...] behindyoureyebrows”. This forthright rejection of spaces between words would be an enduring theme.

So when the album turned up a little while later, I figured it had to be worth another quid or so…

“Get Out Of My Face” is a six track affair. It even has some credits on it, which are difficult to decipher because of the lack of spaces between words. Nevertheless the label yields a useful “all songs (c) 1986″. The back cover states that it was recorded in London, Luton and Sussex and  announces that the group “are Clyde Ely Goldhurst”. I have no idea whether that is one, two or three people cos of the lack of spaces.

Side One is a bit more”beaty” and includes “Hit No.1″ again. “Private Property”and “Dreamtime” remind me a little of Fad Gadget at his most croony – but with a slightly posher voice.

Side Two is more to my liking and verges on electronic chillout territory. “The Elephant Bar” is filmic and jazzy, a bit like some of Barry Adamson’s solo gear. Luckily the only vocals are wispy female operatic ones. (Hmm!) “Last Chance” almost sounds like a more plinky plonky Massive Attack or something. “The Fridge” might consist of pitched down church organs and choirs.

I then forgot about the Christmas Bunch for a while until I stumbled on this record in Brighton one summer:

I think you’ll have to agree that this cover either heralds the magnificent or the tragic.

The back cover reveals that the full line up is “Nick Sample featuring The Christmas Bunch”. Side A is “Marvelous Person” and features Margaret Thatcher doing vocals over an almost adequate “acid dance” backing. Whilst I doubt this ever got played at Shoom, it’s an interesting novelty record and yet another example of old industrial types dovetailing with acieeeed. Or maybe that’s too naive – it’s billed as “Yet Another Acid Cash In”. That guitar solo is a no-no though.

Side Two is all the vocal samples done acapella for all you mash up mixmasters out there. I’ve had some drunken fun with these over the years. Which is why it’s not exactly in mint condition, even by the standards of certain sellers on GEMM.

Actually, hearing it again, I’m not clear if it’s clever editing of Thatcher or a soundalike. She comes out with stuff like “I am a marvelous concept… we must take away the fruits of people’s labour” and stuff. There’s a newsreader type bloke in there as well gobbing off about “profits are modern warfare” and suchlike.

And that was the last I heard of ye Xmasbunch. It looks like they made at least one other record, which judging by its cover might include Michael Heseltine stepping up to the mic. I’m not about to start paying 5 quid for their records though. If anyone has any further information then please feel free to leave a comment below or drop me an email.


So anyway, where does Alison Goldfrapp fit into this? Well after occasionally googling for info on The Christmas Bunch to no avail over the years, this little snippet turned up tonight:

“Alison was born in 1966 — or earlier. She was in a LCP student film made in 1988 (find it on myspace) and also in 1985 also. She was NOT 15 in 1985! She was in a band called the Christmas Bunch. Do the maths.”

(It’s in the midst of a discussion about her age, which I am not remotely bothered about – it’s easy to see why women in the media spotlight might obscure their age, no? For the record I have a lot of time for Goldfrapp – particularly their “Black Cherry” and “Supernature” albums. There’s a lot of inverted snobbery about them in bloggerland.)

To be honest I don’t hold out much hope for an anonymous single source on the internet actually being true. For all I know it’s someone who used to be in the band trying to reignite some interest in their backcatalogue. But it was an unexpected bonus which has added to the mystery nicely.

And… there is an “Ali Blank” credited on the sleeve of the “Get Out Of My Face” album…

7 Comments

  1. Interesting, no mention of this on her discogs entry, but that may not be complete. It does mention her work with Orbital and Dreadzone

    I think the record I saw in Christoph’s shop in Berlin was this from 1996:
    http://www.discogs.com/Spacer-Contrazoom/release/24948

    It’s a ten inch by Spacer called Contrazoom. She wrote, sang and played clarinet on it.

    Her wikipedia entry also mentions she was in a Hampshire anarcho-punk/goth band Fashionable Living Death. THere’s more about them here:

    http://avicusuk.blogspot.com/2009/09/fashionable-living-death-fld_29.html

    Seems she was only in an early version of this band, called Afterbirth.

    All in all, I think we can say she has paid her subcultural dues!

    http://www.discogs.com/artist/Alison+Goldfrapphttp://www.discogs.com/Spacer-Contrazoom/release/24948

  2. STN says:

    The tune Black Cherry is really wicked. I don’t really line any of the rest of it, but I love AG anyway cos I think she’s from Aldershot, which is where I was born.

  3. JOHN EDEN says:

    Nice bit of digging there, Neil! Thank you!

    STN – perhaps your eyes met briefly across a playground at one point?

  4. STN says:

    Fuck off, she’s old enough to be my mum!

  5. STN says:

    Sorry, that sounded nasty, she is a total fox, but I’m not THAT old that we could have been at primary school together. Sorry, I’m feeling sensitive. Anyway, I never actually LIVED in Aldershot.

  6. JOHN EDEN says:

    Yeah I was thinking more along the lines of her being a delinquent teenager on the benches whilst you were on the swings :-)

  7. SITUATIONIST SKINHEAD says:

    In an ‘art lit’ genre that is dominated by sensationalism, sychophants and myth making, Home stands out as being one of the only writers in his field worth bothering with. He is held in high regard by both Peter Ackroyd and Iain Sinclair, and his work on the Post Dada /Post Futurist ‘cosmos’ set the benchmark of good writing on those areas, angering many ‘experts’ and ‘academics’ in the process.

    Situationism is very much a ‘fashionable’ , increasingly conservative, banal predictable area for people to turn a buck from these days, and academic papers on ‘psychogeography’ have become tiresome and unadventurous, but Home’s work on these areas ( dating from the late 70′s onwards ) , is still original and essential reading, though again, it drew fire from many of the self appointed ‘experts’ in that area,who consider themselves gatekeepers of ‘history’.

    “Blood Rites” is unpleasant, disturbing, harsh, and bleakly amusing.

    If you are into the mystical decadence of poets like Arnaut Daniel; if you are into writers from Baudrillard to Lautremont to Stirner, then why haven’t you read Home?

    Home still reveals much of the competition to be the phony middle brow nonsense it really is.

    Will Self in a London Evening Standard interview called Home a “nasty Situationist Skinhead” — a statement which is probably true.