Personnel: Imagene Peise (piano); Shineyu Bhupal (sitar); Ominog Bangh (synthesizer).
From the Flaming Lips' presumably vast vault of curiosities comes Atlas Eets Christmas, a psych-jazz piano album that originally appeared in a very limited run under the pseudonym Imagene Peise during the 2007 holiday season. Billed as a lost album by a mysterious young Iraqi piano prodigy name Peise who committed suicide in 1978, the album plays like the soundtrack to some sort of unearthed educational filmstrip where science meets Santa. The same could be said about much of the Lips' more experimental output, which does include other Yuletide offerings, most notably the soundtrack to their 2008 film Christmas on Mars. Almost entirely instrumental and buried under the weight of a fabricated faux-vinyl crackle, Atlas frames their lovely piano arrangements of such classics as "Winter Wonderland," "Do You Hear What I Hear?," and "White Christmas" with buzzing sitars, spacy electronic noises, distant synths, and the band's hallmark Mellotron drones. The result is a warmly intended yet moon-cold Christmas album that is still surprisingly pleasant. Although Wayne Coyne does make his presence known singing lead on the Vince Guaraldi-esque title cut (most likely through an old telephone from his home office on Mars), this largely seems to be the baby of multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd, whose graceful piano playing makes up the bulk of this unusual venture. As far as Christmas albums go, it's a nice break from the norm, and even its punny name and false back-story can't hide the kooky yet wistful vibe that is the unmistakable stamp of a Flaming Lips production. ~ Timothy Monger