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The Residents - Eskimo CD (album) cover

ESKIMO

The Residents

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.92 | 61 ratings

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Certif1ed
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars First Encounters

Eskimo was my first encounter with the Residents, as part of my exploration into electronica in the late 1970s.

Like much electronic and world music, it's definitely not one for everyone - "Eskimo" is a broad-brushstroke pastiche of a "realistic" sound-portrait interpretation of tribal life in the Arctic circle.

Cold World Music

An icy wind blasts - strongly reminiscent of "One of These Days", but instead of the delayed bass line, we get a solo instrument with a haunting sound like a cross between a cello and a trombone, which is quickly joined by chanting, and an irregular splashing, like the oars of a boat. A solitary drum beats a steady pulse, and the walrus can clearly be heard to be bellowing during the struggle of the catch.

The icy wind continues to blow into "Birth", the percussion becomes a little more elaborate, and the chanting starts up once again A change in texture comes around 1:24 into this track, with a high synth sound with Mellotron undertones and more distinctly male chanting. A distorted voice then recites as a woman gives birth. A baby cries, in tones reminiscent of Pingu, and female chanting takes over.

The wind blows again, and "Arctic Hysteria" sets in by way of a seemingly randomly plucked guitar and a voice that could be female. This spirals out of control, higher and higher - presumably representative of the spirit of the afflicted person.

"The Angry Angakok" intensifies the tribal feel - but with increased cartoon-like feelings, albeit the rather disturbed cartoons you only see late at night after eating cheese.

"A Spirit Steals a Child" with its tuned percussion and ever more animated tribe voices is the closest the Residents come to playing actual music so far. The twisted crying child sound with the noises of the spirit flying around is a particularly disturbing highlight of this album, and recommended to anyone who enjoys getting a chilling scare out of their music - but those of a more nervous disposition may wish to stay away, unless, like me, they hear most of the "spirit" noises as either "Several Small Species of Furry Animals..." or some cartoon-like whale.

"The Festival of Death" is a direct continuation and development of all the previous ideas, culminating in actual music - the intention seems to be to create the longest "noise" intro in history and suspend the time it takes to break into anything resembling melody, harmony or form for as long as possible - leaving timbre as the most exposed and developed attribute, and rhythm the one lifeline.

Terminate and Stay Resident

It is kind of fascinating on first listen, but the novelty quickly fades. The humour is funny in a twisted kind of way - but there are only so many times a joke can be repeated, so I would file this under "listen infrequently" - but it's definitely worth hearing at least once.

It is, however, very limited in scope - intentionally, I might add - and as such I can only really recommend it to the curious and fans of anything that breaks the traditional mould.

Since the latter category includes most fans of Prog Rock, my rating is 3 stars - not an essential album, but for what it is, it's very, very, well done and well worth a listen.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |

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