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The Residents - Postcards from Patmos CD (album) cover

POSTCARDS FROM PATMOS

The Residents

RIO/Avant-Prog


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4 stars The Bunny Boy project poses an interesting dilemma for the reviewer, even more so than most of the Residents' work. The problem here is that this particular project involves a multi-episode internet drama series, an album of music based around the series, an album of music used in the series, an album of unused pieces, and a DVD consisting of a newly edited version of the original series, all of which act as parts for a larger (but deliberately holey) whole. What, then, is the work one is actually reviewing?

The entire project revolves around a man, seemingly named Roger, who is using the internet to try and find his lost brother Harvey. Roger was victim of some kind of accident while in Greece (the details of this, though, are vague), and the appeals he makes over the web become increasingly disturbed. We eventually see him donning a full body bunny costume, as if this will somehow help him in his plea. When the series originally ran online, viewers could contact Roger by email to help him find Harvey, and Roger would respond back to you (giving you a chance, perhaps, to actually communicate with a central Resident?). Along the way, Roger starting selling objects from the room he was broadcasting from so that he could get money to go to Arkansas to find Harvey. One could actually go to ebay and buy cheap little knickknacks to "help" Roger. He also went on tour with the Residents to help make his case and earn money. So, ebay and the Residents' tour were also part of the larger narrative (that is, the tour wasn't strictly in support of the album but yet another part of the big story). So what is the work one is actually reviewing?

The block you have just read (and the one you are reading now) will reappear in each review I am offering of each element of the Bunny Boy project. This boilerplate, meant to help connect everything, will be followed by a segment that focuses on what the separate element adds. Overall, what should be recognized is that with the Bunny Boy series, the Residents have pushed the idea of the concept album into a radical new direction in a way that was truly multimedia but that also tripped the lines between art and reality, artist and audience.

"Postcards from Patmos" consists of the music used in the background of the original internet series. So I guess you could call it a soundtrack. Listened to on its own, though, it makes for compelling ambient instrumental music. The opening track, "The Winged Serpent Repents to the Father" (and what great titles this album has), reminds me of mid-period Legendary Pink Dots. As sonic soundscapes, the stuff on offer is dreamy and unsettling in its freeform shifting. I could see fans of Tangerine Dream or Faust finding a familiar home in these tracks. It's worth noting that over the last few years the Residents have been releasing a good number of instrumental albums. Often these are instrumental versions of their more narrative works, with the storyline removed, and I could easily understand someone preferring the instrumental variations to the original narrative versions. The trio of Best Left Unspoken discs, which compile a loose array of instrumentals, also makes for a compelling aural experience. Postcards is a great addition to this direction of the Residents' monstrously large body of work.

Of all the releases related to the Bunny Boy project, this is the one that gets the most frequent hearings from me.

Overall project: 4; this album: 4.

Also see: The Bunny Boy, Arkansas and Is Anybody Out There? (DVD).

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Posted Friday, January 29, 2010 | Review Permalink

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